Sculthorpe Primary School welcomes plans for parking and play area

Sculthorpe village sign

Sculthorpe village sign - Credit: Archant Ltd.

A rapidly-growing school has welcomed plans to provide it with urgently-needed playing fields and car parking – although the same proposal has revived concerns over the future development of the rest of the site.

An application has been submitted for Grove Farm at the centre of Sculthorpe – a private field enclosed by Moor Lane, Creake Road and The Street.

It includes the provision of a new playing field for Sculthorpe Primary, parking for 22 cars, the creation of permissive footpaths and cycleways across the farmland site and new boundary fencing with pedestrian gates.

The school, where pupil numbers have risen from 30 to 80 in the last six years, has been trying to find a way to expand beyond the constrained boundaries of its own site on Creake Road, near the north-eastern corner of the field.

Headteacher Chris Allen said the proposals offered a “fantastic” solution to the school’s problems, while providing access to safer cycling route for travelling pupils.

But at a parish meeting last week, some concerns were raised about the long-term vision for the site, with suggestions the plan could pave the way for residential re-development on the remainder of the field – a long-held concern in the village.

The landowner’s agent said he had received “no such instruction” from his client about anything beyond the tabled application, which he said would bring benefits to the school and the community, while allowing farming to continue safely on the majority of the field.

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Mr Allen, head of the Unity Federation of Church Schools, said: “Outside space is something we desperately need.

“About a year ago, we approached the land agents for the field across the road to ask if there was a chance we could lease a bit of land for a sports field and a car park. Our children need a bit of a grass area to play on and the car park would ease the congestion on the side of the road where staff and parents are parking on the verges. Our request has been met in this planning application, and the rest of the scheme is fantastic, because it is thinking about the field and the community.”

Mr Allen wrote a letter to parents which says: “Any rumour about further intentions for the development of this field are just that – rumour – and we as a school do not have any knowledge of the future plans for this field.”

He said: “That piece of land has always had these questions of whether it will be developed for the last 30 years, so this is something that has been bandied about for a long time. But at the moment we only have this plan and there are lots of benefits to this plan, that’s our feeling.”

Andrew Bastin, a director of Norwich-based property firm Bastin Steward, which is acting as agent for the landowner, said: “We were approached by a growing and improving school which is bursting at the seams and needs to expand.

“First of all, the land is not being given away. There will be a commercial arrangement with the school about the part of the site they are going to occupy.

“The second purpose of this is that there is a need to manage the site much more comprehensively. We have to make it clear to people that it is private land and the client will be prepared to agree access across it, but only in a controlled way. The school is at one of the furthest extremities of the village, and we would rather the kids arrived safely at school.”

Regarding the concerns of future housing development, Mr Bastin said: “I don’t have any such instruction at all. I cannot in all honesty see what that concern is about this particular application, given that the school is such a central part of the community.”

A discussion about the site took place at an annual village meeting last Thursday chaired by parish council Tony Walters, who said: “On the face of it, the parish council thinks that the planning application is very acceptable for the village. It must be said that there are a lot of people who are very positive about it

“There are some people who have got underlying worries about what the future will bring. But these concerns are not valid at the moment, because there is no application for building on this site, so those concerns cannot be taken into account.”