Town councillors have this week welcomed plans for a new school earmarked for the outskirts of Highbridge, but raised concerns about how slowly it will be built and also safety issues.
The new primary school, providing a minimum of 200 spaces, is set to be built on the site of the huge 550-home Brue Farm development next to the A38 Huntspill Road.
It’s part of the plans for the first phase of 171 new Barratt homes at the Brue Farm site, which were supported by town councillors during a meeting on Monday evening (February 25th). The plans include two, three and four bedroom family homes, a new school, play areas and a new A38 roundabout.
The new school, first reported by Burnham-On-Sea.com five years ago, is finally part of a hybrid application that will see it built at the southern end of the Brue Farm site, as shown on the map below.
But while Cllr John Parkes welcomed the new school, he added: “It is pleasing to see the demands on Highbridge’s infrastructure finally being addressed here with a new school – but when will it be built? Will it be when the first new home is built or when the last new home is built? And what about a new secondary school as well to fully address local needs?”
Cllr Brewer responded: “The original plans for the full 550 homes here came with a condition that the phases of property building would trigger the new school.”
Cllr Parkes added: “So when the 249th new home is built, the school is built – but where do the first 249 families there send their kids to school?”
Cllr Brewer confirmed: “We do have concerns relating to the school provision.”
Cllr Phil Harvey added: “Could Somerset County Council put in some extra funding to make up for the deficiencies? It’s their responsibility to provide schools.”
But Cllr Peter Clayton said: “I don’t believe that the school is specifically only for that site – it’s catering for the whole area.”
Cllr Victoria Weavell added that “it seems like a bad location to put a new school – access will be difficult.”
However, Cllr Brewer responded: “The location of the new school has moved from the back of the site to the front – and access is not from the A38 Huntspill Road, it would be through the housing site.”
Cllr Nick Tolley said that while he “completely agrees with the layout of the site,” he has concerns about access to the proposed new school, saying there would be “lots of congestion at busy times of the day”, and he suggested a one-way road route to and from the school would help to keep traffic moving around the new school.
Cllr Brewer agreed, responding: “Suggesting an amended one-way road layout is a good idea to avoid bottlenecks.”
Travel is a concern for councillors. Cllr John Parkes said: “If you go along that stretch of the A38 at peak times when there’s been a problem on the M5 you won’t get anywhere, roundabout or otherwise.”
Cllr Andy Brewer responded: “The developer has changed its plans for a new T-junction onto the A38, introducing a new roundabout instead to try and address the traffic concerns.”
Resident John Wilkes spoke during Monday’s meeting about his concerns about safety along the A38, saying southbound access from Alstone Road would pose a particular “danger”.
Cllr Peter Clayton said he has “no real problem with the layout of the site – the number of homes has already been agreed in previous applications so that’s not up for re-consideration here.”
Parking provision is also a concern for some councillors. Cllr Parkes said: “What is the parking provision? I can see people having to park along the Huntspill Road, further backing up the traffic.”
He added: “I have always been against this development – I see Highbridge and West Huntspill slowly becoming part of Bridgwater over time. With this many new homes here, traffic will be stacking up all the way back to Dunball – it’s crazy.”
Cllr Brewer responded: “The developer is providing the required number of parking spaces for this number of homes – they are meeting the national standard. We all have personal views about those numbers, but they are meeting the guidelines. That said, I do have concerns about the amount of visitor parking provision – that’s a concern.”
But Cllr Clayton added: “The 550 homes were agreed a long ago. As for the layout in this planning application, I fully support it.”
Cllr Brewer added that the proposed footbridge to be built by the developer across the River Brue from the Brue Farm site is “welcome” and “has to be completed early in the development – it will be a positive aspect of this development.”
The application – reference number 52/19/00001 – was supported by councillors despite the reservations, but final decision rests with Sedgemoor District Council. Comments are welcome from residents until March 5th, 2019.