Plans for a new 100-pupil special educational needs school (SEN) in Bloxham have been put on hold as traffic concerns and more information was sought by Cherwell District Council’s planning committee.
The L-shaped part two-storey, part one-storey school with proposed new access from Bloxham Grove Road features outdoor play areas, a multi-use games area, 46 staff parking spaces, a 12-car pupil drop-off zone, a calm room, science and music teaching capabilities and an art class.
It would be located east of the Warriner School directly abutting Bloxham Grove.
The latest plan being discussed by the committee was submitted in late March with the main objections centred around traffic and safety issues.
Bloxham resident councillor Chris Heath spoke first, proposing the application be deferred. She said: “I would like to request a site visit, but this would have to be in term time, ie September, for members to be able to see for themselves the dangers and complications on and around the A361, which will be caused by this application if approved.”
Despite the potential for additional traffic and people movement on one of the most dangerous roads in the county, Oxfordshire Highways have no objection to the plans .
Cllr Heath said: “There are many issues that are not clear and are all based on highway solutions. I would like to ask officers again to liaise with highways on some of the major issues – the moving of the 30mph limit sign.
“The types of crossing they are planning are unsuitable for children tearing out of school to get home.
“OCC Highways is not known for listening to local views, but I think on this particular situation it is imperative officers and highways listen and hear the views of local people who know this hazardous area so well.”
She added: “If the highways situation isn’t brought to a safe conclusion and this application is approved, believe me we are risking children’s lives and I’m not prepared to do that.”
Cllr Kerford-Byrnes seconded the motion to defer saying: “I actually went to the site this afternoon at five to three and sat there, to see what was going on. The average rate of vehicles travelling across the A361 crossroads was between 20 and 30 per minute, one every two or three seconds.
“About a quarter of them were turning in or turning out of that particular junction causing traffic on both sides to slow down and be mindful.
“The children coming out of the Warriner School, which are reduced in number by virtue of the fact that Year 10 and 11 are no longer attending having completed their exams, were significant in number.
“The only crossing that they have got is about 150 yards from that particular crossroads and it wasn’t very much used, they were actually swarming across the road like ants.”
He added: “I felt it was unsafe, for that reason I believe we should all look at it and see it on a school day, preferably when you have a full house of children. “I would also suggest it might be appropriate to invite the OCC highways officer to come along as well.”
Cherwell District Council planning officer Sarah Stevens responded to the traffic and safety concerns saying: “The officers fully understand the concerns in relation to highways issues but we need to understand that we need to judge the application that’s before you and I fully appreciate there are probably existing problems there.
“You will also note there is a condition there in the recommendation that relates to the submission of details in terms of a crossing or whatever form that will be.
“Until that has been submitted and actually approved by the council, if you were minded to approve this application, the actual development cannot take place.”
She added: “You will see in the officer’s report the very urgent educational needs that are being put forward by the county council and also the time scales. I would suggest that even a deferment of one committee cycle may well jeopardise that particular timetable they have. I suggest the issues of the highways can continue if you approve this application.”
After being urged by the planning officer to approve the plans for an SEN School on Bloxham Grove due to the urgent need for such facilities, Cherwell District Council planning committee members took issue with what they considered bullying by Oxfordshire County Council.
Cllr George Reynolds, said: “Clearly pressure is being put on us by the officers. We need to weigh up the possible deaths of students at this crossing.
“Anybody who has been anywhere near the Warriner knows what a shambles it is and for too long, I believe, we have allowed ourselves to be bludgeoned into approvals by OCCby allowing difficult situations by just the odd widening of a road and a pedestrian crossing.
“We will get blamed if there are any accidents there. Why this is in a hurry is not our fault, that is somebody else’s.”
He added: “We must not be allowed to let ourselves be bludgeoned into a decision that we may regret later on.”
Cllr Billington echoed those sentiments saying: “This is very important and it is not going to hurt to defer this for two cycles. Let us members have a look at it.
“I agree that the county council tends to rush things, I’m not happy half the time with what they say, it’s totally against the book but it happens.
“I am going to agree to a deferral for two cycles.”
After further discussion by a number of councillors the application was deferred for two committee cycles.