Appeal date set for Sidcot’s boarding house plan

PUBLISHED: 10:00 01 June 2015

Sidcot School

Sidcot School

Archant

THE long-argued fate of an independent school’s plans to build a boarding house for up to 53 students looks set to be decided at last next week.

Sidcot School has twice been refused planning permission by North Somerset Council to expand by building overnight accommodation for students in fields off Fountain Lane, in Winscombe.

However, the matter now looks set to be permanently resolved, as an appeal hearing will begin on Wednesday at Winscombe Cricket Club, in The Lynch. The appeal is set to last for two days.

A statement from the council on the authority’s planning website said the application was initially refused because members judged it would result in the ‘harmful encroachment of development into the countryside, which will be out of keeping with the rural landscape character and quality of the area’.

Resident John Haynes, who has previously spoken out against Sidcot’s plans, told the Mercury: “The council has refused to grant planning permission for this application on two occasions already, so we think it would be criminal if the school won the appeal.

“We have sent a very comprehensive rejection of the appeal to North Somerset Council and to the planning investigator, which shows how this application is in breach of both national and local planning policy.

“We are absolutely not against the school extending and building the boarding house – we are just against the building being situated in this location.

“Residents would be trapped in their houses during the building phase if the boarding house was to be built on that site.

“They (Sidcot) are also intending to put the entrance to the site on a blind corner. Nobody in their right mind would put an access point in that location.

“It would only be a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt there.”

A spokesman from Sidcot said the school had ‘nothing to add’, when asked by the Mercury to comment on the forthcoming appeal.

However, the school’s headteacher, Iain Kilpatrick, said in a letter to the council last year: “The development of this new boarding house forms an essential part of the school’s long-term future as a leading institution within North Somerset.

“The design of the new boarding house has been very carefully developed to take full account of its rural setting, with particular regard to the longevity of Belgian Avenue and the benefits this will bring to both the school and the local community.

“The school requires a new boarding house for sixth form students of this size and format, in order to meet demand, adequately compete in a very competitive market and satisfy an integral part of its long-term business plan.

“Without this investment, the school’s future becomes uncertain.”

The appeal, which is open to members of the public, is scheduled to begin at 10am on Wednesday.

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