Reduction in outdoor play space from school expansion deemed acceptable

Two appeals relating to the extension of a free school and non-compliance with a condition restricting pupil numbers at the same school in a Kent town were allowed, with no harmful effect on the provision of physical education and informal play space at the school.

The issue in the case related to whether the 967 sqm extension would have a harmful effect through the reduction of specific hard outdoor PE and soft informal and social area play space at the school given the limited space at the site.

There was no dispute between council and appellant that the amount of specific space requirements at the school would be below the figures set out in Building Bulletin BB103. But the inspector noted this same document also advocated a flexible approach to site area and management where sites were restricted. The inspector also referred to the fact the document was non-statutory guidance, there was no specific local plan policy in this regard and that the NPPF gave great weight to the need to create, expand or alter schools. She afforded moderate weight to the document but felt the conflict with its space requirements was limited given the school had identified, amongst other mitigation measures, off-site provision to supplement that on-site.

In finding the proposed extension acceptable in principle, the need for the condition attached to the previous permission for the school at the site limiting the number of pupils was therefore also deemed unnecessary by the inspector. Finally, she dismissed local residents’ concerns about the capacity of the surrounding road network to cope with the increase in traffic at the site, given no objections had been raised by the local highway authority and there was an acceptable travel plan in place.

Inspector: D J Board; Hearing

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