The former Swanage Grammar School site next to St Mary’s RC Primary School and nursery has got permission to be redeveloped, despite concerns from some parents.
The new estate on Northbrook Road will provide 90 homes with 30 of them classified as affordable. This means that they will only be able to be lived in as a primary residence by someone with a local connection to Swanage on an affordable rent or shared ownership basis.
St Mary’s School is right next to the building site
Concerns from parents
At the Dorset Council eastern area planning committee meeting on Wednesday 6th April 2022, councillors discussed the application by Barratt David Wilson Homes.
A parent Carla Danesh raised the concerns of the pre-school. She said that the development was right next to the nursery windows which would decrease the natural light due to the close proximity of the new buildings and she added:
“There will be increased dust and noise from the build in the children’s immediate space as it is half a metre to a metre from the fenceline.
“We’re not against the houses, we just don’t want the pre-school children to suffer.”
Another parent, Sophie Holdforth said that research showed that dust particles can cause aggravated asthma and other respiratory conditions:
“This can cause great risk because it’s drawn deep into the lungs. With a prevailing south westerly wind these toxic particles will be breathed in by our children, who play innocently outside in a space where they should be safe.
“The boundary fence that separates the pre-school and the building site is not robust enough. It doesn’t stop the high level of dust and toxic particles.”
The development is off Northbrook Road opposite the Compass Point housing estate
“A number of public benefits including delivery of 30 affordable homes”
Barratt David Wilson Homes has just completed the Compass Point development of 90 homes on the other side of Northbrook Road and has been using the grammar school site as a compound for its materials.
James Frost from Barratt David Wilson Homes spoke in support of the planning proposal that would allow the company to continue building more homes to the north of Swanage. He said:
“The application has been developed to give full regard to the character of Swanage and the existing Compass Point development…
“We note the concern of the pre-school and respect the proximity of the site to the adjacent school.
“However officers are clear in the recommendation and I quote, ‘that it is commonplace for schools to be located adjacent to residential properties’ and that ‘the proposed screening of the properties to the northern edge of the site will be acceptable for privacy for both the users of the schools and the residents of the dwellings’…
“We have listened to and worked with the parents group who have raised concerns which have resulted in a number of boundary treatments. A further offer of soft landscaping on the school site has been made outside of the planning process…
“In considering this proposal we ask that members consider a number of public benefits including delivery of 30 affordable homes, the generation and payment of £1.85 million in CIL (community infrastructure levy) receipts, the generation of a new homes bonus for the first six years of development and the generation of ongoing council tax and expenditure towards public services including education and learning, public health, and child and social care.”
The old grammar school is derelict and has bats roosting in its roof
Five decades to bring this housing to this site
Councillor Gary Suttle who represents Swanage on Dorset Council also attended the meeting and welcomed that the now derelict grammar school site was going to be developed. He said:
“It’s taken almost five decades to bring this housing to this site. I applaud that and Barratts for building on the site. And in particular the 30 homes are absolutely essential to Swanage as affordable units.”
The layout of the development
“Come and look at the site yourself”
However he then went on to address the concerns of the parents at the schools. He added:
“As residents quite rightly point out there is inappropriate screening between the site and the school and in the construction stage we believe there are inappropriate methods that do not take into account a significant amount of dust that will be created by cutting building materials on site…
“In reality, the best thing would be to defer this and come and look at the site yourself, so you could see just how close these houses are to this school.
“Secondly when the homes are built the overlooking is inappropriate. Something has to be done – you should take measures to do that.
“I’m also very surprised with (Dorset Council) Highways – right by the school in Washpond Lane, it moves to the national speed limit. It seems ironic that you’re going to allow all these people to live right next to a school and inappropriate speeds.
“Also access to the school and the site could be improved by additional pathways from Ulwell Road and I believe that the town council is keen to see that.
“In essence, I’m asking for you to defer to have a site visit, so you can really see what we are talking about.”
Barratt has been using the site as a compound for its Compass Point development
Part of the site already had planning permission
The Dorset Council planning officer then pointed out that the northern half of the site had already got planning permission and was the fall back position for the developer.
He emphasised that this old layout put the housing much closer to the school, while the new layout put gardens between the houses and the school. If this application wasn’t passed then the parents may end up with a less favourable development.
It was also pointed out that a 1.8 metre (six foot) close boarded timber fence between the site and the school would be sufficient to maintain the privacy for residents and the school pupils.
The planning officer said that the environmental health team had developed a detailed management plan to ensure a suitable degree of mitigation of the dust including cutting building materials to the south of the site away from the school.
The officer said that recommendation of the planning permission was only on the condition that the developer signed up to the environmental health plan.
The old grammar school gatehouse is also due to be demolished
Pedestrian footpath into Days Park
It was also revealed that the developer had agreed to make a pedestrian footpath into Days Park from the south east corner of the development and would also provide an opening at the north east corner of the site, if the town council wanted to put in a footpath to Ulwell Road.
While not mentioned in the discussions, this would also provide residents of the new housing estate with a quick and safe route to the nearest bus stop.
Nearby Washpond Lane has no pavements and the national speed limit of 60 mph applies
Councillor Bill Trite raised a number of points
Councillor Bill Trite who represents Swanage on Dorset Council and is a member of the planning committee raised a number of points.
He said he did not believe that a 1.8 metre fence was sufficient between the site and the school as residents would be able to see into the playground from first floor windows.
He also called for a site visit for the councillors to understand the safety issues of children walking down narrow Washpond Lane with no pavements. He said that with more homes and therefore more cars in close proximity it was a potentially dangerous situation.
Artist impression of the new housing
Affordable housing guarantee
Councillor David Tooke raised the issue of whether the developer could go back on its commitment to provide affordable housing after planning permission was granted, as in other places like the old St Mary’s School development in Swanage. He asked:
“How concerned are we that the sums in this case add up and there is very little danger of the developer coming back and being unable to afford to put the affordable housing in place, as that would be a great shame?”
The planning officer said there were no guarantees but the developer had not raised the issue of viability and the number of affordable homes had already been reduced to a third of the total site as opposed to 50 percent to take into account the demolition costs of the old grammar school.
The site is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Environmentally friendly measures
Councillor Beryl Ezzard raised her concerns about the lack of any environmentally friendly measures like solar tiles, rainwater harvesting and bee bricks. Officers said that there was a biodiversity mitigation plan that had to be implemented as a condition of the planning, that included many measures including a new bat roost as there were bats in the old building.
Another issue was the green open space to the south east corner of the site, which it was revealed was part of the drainage scheme and while it would be dry during the summer it could have up to 1.3 metres of water in it during periods of heavy rainfall. Safety concerns were raised about effectively having a pond on the development.
Parents at St Mary’s pre-school are concerned about the impact of noise and dust from the construction site
Permission granted subject to conditions
In the end the councillors decided against a site visit and decided that the issues of Washpond Lane would have to be taken up by the highways department. However they did decide to add extra conditions to the planning permission.
The first was to install a suitable screen to increase the height of the fence between the site and the school during construction to mitigate dust particles.
The second was to provide suitable safety fencing around the open ground that would be a pond during times of heavy rainfall.
Councillors then voted by a majority in favour of granting planning permission on the basis that all conditions were compiled with and the affordable housing was secured. The vote was five in favour with two abstentions.