Parents object to plans for Old Swanage Grammar School site

A house builder is being asked to reconsider its planning application for 90 homes in Swanage to take into account the health and wellbeing of children at the neighbouring St Mary’s Catholic Primary School.

Parents of some of the children at the preschool have launched a petition, which now has more than a thousand signatures, calling on the house builder, Barratts, to modify its plans.

Architect plan of Old Grammar school housing
IDP Partnership
Plan of the landsaping at the grammar school development

The top image shows a green continuous barrier between the school and the north boundary of the development. The latest landscaping plan from the developers show that two trees are to be planted along the north boundary of the development

Parents are concerned

The parents are concerned that the current proposed housing layout means that some homes will directly overlook the school’s playground. They are calling for a line of trees to be planted along the boundary to ensure the safeguarding of the children.

The petition is also asking for an earth bund, a barrier made of earth, or a high green screen to help reduce sand, toxic particles and dust drifting over to the school, while the building work takes place. It’s expected that the building work will take two years to complete.

Fencing at the Old grammar school development in Swanage

The current fence between the school and the development. Barratts say it will be replaced with an acoustic barrier

building workers tarmac the site's entrance
Carla Danesh

The entrance to the site was resurfaced while the children were playing in the adjacent playground. The parents say they had asked for it to take place during half term

“The health and safety of our children

Two of the parents behind the petition are Carla Danesh and Sophie Holdforth. Sophie said:

“We’re not averse to the development, we know there is a need for housing, but we are averse to the building work going ahead without enough consideration for the health and safety of our children.

“Under the current plans there is a row of houses where the new occupants will look straight into the children’s playground – that is a big safeguarding issue and planners need to take that into account.

“The way it’s currently designed, the gardens of these properties go right up to the boundary of the school, which surely isn’t best practice? There’s no space left for the developer to plant any trees.

“It looks as if the building work will go on for two years and that’s a long time to expose children to all the fumes and particles. Currently the barrier between our children’s playground and the development is just a temporary wire fence with a fabric hoarding. We need Barratts to do better than that.

“Asthma is one of the biggest health risks for people working on building sites. However, these workers do wear protective clothing. Our little ones have no protection.”

New Barratt development in Swanage

The Compass Point development opposite is nearly complete

Dorset Council is considering the planning application

Barratts is just completing the building of Compass Point, a development of 90 homes on the other side of Northbrook Road. Due to the success and popularity of the new housing, the company bought the old grammar school site opposite and applied for planning permission.

Dorset Council’s planning department is now considering the application for a further 90 homes of which 30 will be categorised as affordable. This means that 30 homes will only be available to rent or part purchase as a primary residence by local people on the Dorset Council’s housing register.

Old grammar school in Swanage

The old grammar school is now derelict

“We were surprised to learn of the petition

Barratts have met with some of the parents to listen to their concerns. Before the meeting, managing director at Barratt David Wilson Southampton Jon Green said:

“At the start of the build back in June 2019, we sent letters to all local residents and the schools, advising them of the works, so we were surprised to learn of the petition from the nursery parents.

“Since building at Compass Point began, we have developed a great relationship with the local community and particularly St Mary’s School, which is next door to the nursery.

“We will continue to build upon that relationship as we progress through the next phase, supporting the schools however we can.

“In addition to the security fence between the site and the pre-school. we will also be installing an acoustic fence and additional planting prior to construction of the homes to reduce noise, dust and as well offering extra privacy and protection for the children.

“I am also looking forward to meeting with some of the parents to assure them of the safety procedures carried out on site and to answer any questions they have.”

Old grammar school development in Swanage

The entrance to the proposed development with the school in the background

Opened a line of communication with Barratts”

Following the meeting, Sophie Holdforth said:

“I’m glad that we have opened a line of communication with Barratts but we remain concerned.

“The planning application is now in the hands of Dorset Council and I understand that councillor Gary Suttle has requested that it’s discussed at the eastern area planning committee.

“If Barratts is unwilling to modify its plans, there’s enough issues and concerns about this application to justify a proper debate by councillors. Not least, we’ve got more than a thousand people signing our petition in just a few weeks!”

Further information

  • The parents’ petition can be viewed online
  • More about Barratts development is on its website
  • All the plans for the old grammar school site in Northbrook Road are on the Dorset Council planning website

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