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Kendal may need two new primary schools
2:00pm Thursday 25th October 2012 in News
KENDAL’s schools will be unable to cope if major housing proposals are given the green light, it emerged this week.
Two more primary schools will be needed to cater for 420 children from 1,961 new households in the town.
The revelation came at a public inquiry into whether South Lakeland Council’s land allocations document, identifying areas to accommodate 6,000 homes across the region by the year 2025, is ‘sound’.
Evidence gathered by Cumbria County Council, submitted to planning inspector Simon Berkeley, also predicted that secondary schools would be pushed above capacity – with 314 extra students seeking places.
Financial backing from developers would be ‘essential’ to deliver the infrastructure, including expanding schools, the CCC document stated.
Dennis Reed, who campaigned for a referendum on the housing plans, said: “Without funding and a plan for increased school places the council should not be going ahead with big developments in Kendal.
“Education is one of the major aspects where there are no implementation proposals. They have not thought it through.”
A document to go before the inquiry shows eight of Kendal’s nine primary schools are full and will remain so for four years.
One has some places available, but even building a new school would leave no spare capacity.
The potential lack of places was raised by Mr Berkeley on the opening day of the inquiry, when he urged both councils to talk about it so they could answer his questions later.
School leaders are con-fident there is sufficient time to account for extra numbers – however, one head said he wanted to defend his school’s ‘character’.
Phil Hyman, of Kirkbie Kendal, said the school had room for a further 150 pupils, which would take the total to 1,100.
“That’s the sort of number we would be able to take in our buildings, if we were to maintain our distinctive character,” said Mr Hyman.
“Kendal has two nice secondary schools and it gives people choice. If we made the two schools the same, it could taint things.”
Mr Hyman added while he did not want the school to grow too large, it would work with planners to provide an ‘appropriate’ number of extra classes if it became clear further capacity was needed.
Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron said he would prefer to see schools outside Kendal filled to capacity and then extended before any new ones were built.
“Most schools outside Kendal aren’t full and could take on extra pupils and would delighted for the opportunity to be able to do so,” said Mr Farron.
“There are smaller schools with fewer than 60 pupils which are always on a knife edge and need more kids – additional numbers would help them."
Enid Fraser, executive officer at South Lakes Federation of Schools, said she thought schools would have enough time to prepare for more children.
She said: “Homes aren’t built overnight. I don’t feel it is a major problem bec-ause schools do grow.
“Some areas of the country get influxes and they’re suddenly trying to manage places for hundreds of children, but this isn’t that.”
Dan Hudson, SLDC’s development strategy manager, said the authority was working closely with CCC to ‘appropriately meet educational needs’.