'Massive opposition' to expansion of schools could see plan scrapped
CONTROVERSIAL plans to expand two schools in Portishead to solve the town's primary places crisis look likely to be scrapped.
Nearly 300 parents packed a public meeting last night to discuss proposals by North Somerset Council to expand both High Down Junior and Infant School to provide 210 extra places. The move would see both schools become 420-place, all-through primaries from reception to year six – with a total of 840 pupils based on their shared site at Down Road.
But at the start of the meeting, parents were told the idea was now unlikely to be taken forward due to massive opposition.
A statement from the council's schools organisation working group said its members were "aware of the strength of feeling against the current proposals and the issues, including the traffic and travel problems, which challenge this proposal".
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The plan cannot be formally dropped until the extended consultation period ends on October 12.
The working group said the council should only consider the plan if no other sites could be found for new school places in the town and added: "We now need to work hard to look at alternative sites and work with school heads, councillors and parents to stitch together alternative proposals."
A traffic assessment had found the expansion would result in 190 vehicles visiting the site at the start and end of each school day and the council had been unable to secure a piece of land near the school needed for the development and for parking.
High Down parent Tanya Slatter said: "There is no doubt there is a crisis in terms of school places in Portishead. But High Down is not a suitable location."
Laura Haseldine, of the Village Quarter Parents Group, said: "Our preferred option is for the expansion of Trinity Primary School, as this is our nearest school and will serve the children of the Village Quarter."
Council education chiefs have looked at a number of other options, many of which have already been ruled out.
These include expanding Portishead Primary to 630 places or doubling the size of St Joseph's, to 420 places. Other options include expanding Trinity Primary on an existing football pitch on the site or considering expanding St Peter's Primary from a 420 place to a 630 place primary.
The possibility of reopening St Barnabas School, which closed in August 2009, has also been considered, as has establishing an all-through school for children aged four to 19 at Gordano.
Portishead is said to be the fastest growing town in Europe and, when developments are complete, will have a population of around 30,000.
Resident Bob Bull said: "Everyone knew when Portishead started to develop, the facilities needed to go in.
"The only option is to build a new school – and the council need to face up to this."