Parents pack meeting on plans to expand St Peter's Primary School
By Prue_Reid | Thursday, January 31, 2013, 17:28
CONCERNED parents packed into a public meeting to have their say on plans to expand a Portishead primary school to provide more class places in the growing town.
More than 50 parents and local residents attended the consultation meeting at the Folk Hall to hear about plans by North Somerset Council to expand St Peter's Primary School from a 420 place to a 630 place primary.
The plans, which will cost an estimated £4 million, will see a new block created at the school at Hallett's Way.
The new block would include nine new classrooms and resource area, enlarged and enhanced staff facilities and an upgraded learning resources centre with integrated library and IT centre.
There would also be additional and enhanced play facilities and a new drop off and collection point and car park created.
If approved the project would be funded with cash in the council coffers for school expansion plus a Government grant.
A consultation on the plans is now underway and closes on March 11. But parents raised concerns about the additional traffic the bigger school could bring to the area.
Jane Sharman, 46, of Portishead, who is a dinner lady at the school said she was concerned about the disruption the expansion could bring.
Mrs Sharman said: "This is going to be a huge school and the building work will cause a lot more aggravation then people anticipate.
"I'm concerned about the access to the school. "We had a horseshoe drop off in Hallett's Way before which didn't work.
"Portishead is getting bigger and bigger yet the parking problems still haven't been sorted out."
Mum Stephanie Hicks, 36, who has one child at the school said: "The expansion will create more traffic in the High Street.
"People will just use the surrounding residential streets as a route to get to the school.
"It is already difficult to cross Cadbury Road and Brampton Way in the morning to get to the school.
"The council is never going to solve the problem of traffic congestion in this area, especially with another 200 children coming to the site."
Halletts Way resident Nancy Fisher, 50, said she was also concerned about the extra traffic the expansion would bring to the street she has lived in for 19 years.
Mrs Fisher said: "I am not convinced the new proposed car park and drop off point will work and people will still drive to Halletts Way.
"I also think that 630 students is way too many for one school."
Mum Claire Taylor, 45, who has one child at the school, said: "My main concern is that the building work will be going on when my daughter will be doing important SAT exams.
"Also how are they going to accommodate all the extra traffic at the same time as ensuring the safety of the children?"
Latest statistics show that there will be a deficit of around 90 places for 2014.
North Somerset Council service leader for planning and access, Sally Varley, said that if the St Peter's option was not pursued, children would end up being bussed out of town to school.
Mrs Varley said: "This is the only solution on the table from the local authority.
"It may not be the total solution but it is the only option we can deliver with the resources available."
Portishead Town Council chairman John Clark said he did not think the expansion of St Peter's would solve the problem long term.
He said: "It may be a solution for the next few years but with a population which is still growing, I am not convinced this expansion will completely solve the problem."
Other parents questioned whether in the end there would be a surplus of places in the town if plans for a 420 place Free School in Portishead get the go ahead.
Mrs Varley said that a decision on the Free School bid would not be made until May and the council could not wait until then before it acted.
Mrs Varley said that the council did not have the funds to build a completely new school to solve the problem.
There are currently two other 630 place primary schools in North Somerset.
Another resident said: "I feel we have been forced into a corner with only one option to solve the problem.
"It seems as if the council has already made its decision and it's a case of like it or lump it."
North Somerset Council schools improvement lead professional, Sue Horsnell, said the values and vision of St Peter's would not change.
She said: "There is no detrimental effect on children's education whether a school is big or small - it's the quality of teaching which is key.
"The things which make St Peter's special will not change."