Sat, 13 Feb 2021
WEST Berkshire Council has approved its own application to demolish the Parsons Down Infant School building and replace it with a wildflower meadow and artificial play pitch.
The council said that the application would help the Parsons Down Partnership of Schools, which runs the infant and junior school on the same site, to “deliver better education on top of the high level already being received”.
Headteacher Catherine Bull said: “I’m absolutely delighted that the planning application has been approved. It’s an exciting time for the partnership as we look towards the future and being in one building.
“The children are really going to benefit from the enhanced facilities – a larger library, a fantastic new foundation stage learning environment - and obviously the MUGA is really going to help us to develop active children with a love of sport. The children are going to love it.”
The council’s head of education Ian Pearson previously said: “We have taken the opportunity to try and improve the education of that school by moving the infant school site into a remodelled, improved and expanded junior school.
“We hope at the end of this that we have the right school of the right size to meet the needs of Thatcham people for the generations to come.”
The application follows the council forecasting a drop in pupil numbers because of demographic changes in the partnership’s catchment area.
The partnership has already reduced its intake from three-form entry to one-form entry and the council said the old infant building was no longer required.
It said that there was sufficient space in the junior building to accommodate all pupils.
The application received no letters of support or objection and was not called in by a councillor, meaning the plans did not go before a planning committee.
Thatcham Town Council raised no objection to the plans, but questioned the future use of “surplus land” east of the school.
West Berkshire Council said the concern was noted, but was not a matter related to the demolition plan.
It said that the land would be retained as open space, and any planning application for the land would need to be treated on its own merits at the time.
The staff car park at the north of the site will be retained, as well as the foundation buildings to the north east of the site, plus the caretaker’s building and workshop.
Approving its plans, the council said it was unusual and regrettable for any school buildings to be demolished, but the case at Parsons Down had been justified.
“In the light of a falling roll call of pupils in the catchment area for the school, there is now only a need for a one-form entry of infants per annum which can be satisfactorily accommodated in the main primary school building on site,” it said.
The council said demolishing the non-attractive building would result in an overall visual improvement to the site.
“The replacement by the new sports pitch and wildflower meadow is certainly of benefit to local sports infrastructure, and indeed local biodiversity.
“Accordingly, in environmental terms, there is a net gain on the application site, whilst in social [educational] terms the impact is neutral in light of the justification.
“In economic terms, the application has some benefit in that the future outgoings of the council in maintaining the school building will be reduced, which, as public expenditure, is of public benefit.”
Demolishing the building would need to be controlled in terms of timings of works, noise and dust suppression, the council added.