Planning committee's frustration over lack of representative for school extension plans

The Advertiser Series: Skerne Park Academy pupil Thomas Dillon with head teacher Kate Chisholm with the development plans when they were first unveiled last week Skerne Park Academy pupil Thomas Dillon with head teacher Kate Chisholm with the development plans when they were first unveiled last week

A SCHOOL will have to wait to find out whether it can expand after councillors questioned why no representatives attended a decisive meeting.

Darlington Council’s planning committee met today (Wednesday, January 15) to consider granting permission for Skerne Park Academy to build three new classrooms and a sports hall at its Coleridge Gardens site.

Objections were made by Eden Crescent residents whose homes would back onto the proposed nine-metre-tall sports hall, but there was no representative from the developers to respond to comments made during the meeting.

Eden Crescent resident Judith Akrigg said the proposed hall would completely block the sun from her and her neighbours’ properties which already only get a few hours’ sunlight in the morning.

She added that extra traffic generated by sports hall users outside of school hours would cause parking problems on Eden Crescent and expressed security concerns about people walking behind the hall being too close to the end of residents’ gardens.

Councillors discussed whether extra fencing added to the plans would improve security and suggested that a planning condition could be made for the developers to plant trees to shield the hall from residents’ view – an idea met with disapproval from Ms Akrigg.

Coun Dorothy Long suggested that if the sports hall was moved further north, it would not have such an impact on Eden Crescent residents because the road travelled at an obtuse angle to the site so houses would be further away from it.

Planning officer Roy Merritt said that at its nearest point, the back wall of the hall would still be 28-metres away from the nearest house – a distance deemed acceptable.

He added that Sport England may have objections to the hall being built further north as it could encroach on the school’s playing field.

Coun Gill Cartwright summed up the committee’s frustrations that none of their questions or suggestions could be answered because nobody had attended the meeting to represent the applicant.

She said: “It has made this process quite difficult, on such a large application, that nobody has come today because these small issues could have been resolved at this table now.”

Committee chair Coun Paul Baldwin agreed, saying: “It is an important thing for the local community and the least they could do is turn up.

“We are deferring it (the planning decision) because we would like some answers to some quite important questions.”

The planning committee next meets on February 12.

• Skerne Park Academy had to close today (Wednesday, January 15) and will be shut for the rest of the week after a boiler problem left it without heating.

The school hopes to re-open on Monday.

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