The Proposed Site
The proposed site for the new school is located on Waterside Drive, just off Terrace Road A3050.
There is an established need to provide additional secondary school places in the Borough to accommodate a growth in student numbers. The greatest concentration for these new places is in the north of the Borough.
A considerable site search has been undertaken to determine where the new school could be located. This included looking at non-Green Belt sites and existing buildings and included consideration of expanding other existing schools. The site search has concluded that no non-Green Belt opportunities exist.
The Waterside Drive site has been identified as the preferred Green Belt site in that it is well located to the identified area of need, relates well to existing school provision and will enable the new school to offer a full curriculum including a full range of sporting opportunities.
In circumstances where a Green Belt site is required the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) confirms that any planning application needs the identify what ‘Very Special Circumstances’ that exist and that these need to outweigh any potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of ‘inappropriateness’. In this instance, it is considered that inter alia lack of other sites and the severe pupil need form part of the VSC case.
Other VSC considerations include the social and economic benefits of providing a school in this location, including – both part and full time equivalent jobs and the out of hours community use of the school’s playing fields / sports hall.
In addition, the buildings and landscaping will be designed carefully to a high standard and include the best possible a range of sustainability measures.
The new secondary school would also help meet a significant need for student places in the Borough as well as improve student and parental options over education choices.
It has not been possible to find a suitable site not located in the Green Belt. Elmbridge is a very constrained Borough in terms of land availability, with limited options for expansion.
Expansion has already happened to accommodate increased numbers at both Three Rivers and Esher High School and further expansion is not viable and would not meet the projected need. There is statutory guidance that sets out recommended spatial allocations for schools. The existing schools are at capacity. Some have other factors which would prohibit further development. The cost of expanding five schools would far exceed the cost of building a single new school.
The proposed/preferred site for the new school is owned by Surrey County Council. The council has offered the site to the EFSA for development as a school only in order to meet the demand for places.
The ESFA / the school does not own the surrounding land and cannot prevent development from coming forward in these locations. If other Green Belt sites did come forward for development, they would need to meet the very high planning test (VSC) and secure planning permission from Elmbridge Borough Council.
The playing fields at the school are protected by Schedule 1 of the Academies Act 2010.
No, the proposals would be approved as development within the Green Belt. The only way for land to be removed from the Green Belt is for the Elmbridge Borough Council to propose and secure it through a review of the adopted Local Plan. Further the design of the campus is driven by having the lowest level of visual impact on the surrounding area.