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News


downsmail.co.uk School access plan ‘bombshell’


PLANNERS behind two newschools on theKentMedicalCampus near theM20 have delivered a “bombshell”, by proposing a pedestrian entrance on the often-gridlocked Bearsted Road.


The Department for Education


and its builders are likely to sub- mit an amended application, pos- sibly with a new access road inside the KMC site. This should have satisfied the


opponents to the road en- trance/exit in Bearsted Road,who claimed it is too dangerous for children andwould cause serious congestion on an already busy highway. But local representatives were


told to their astonishment at a KMC site meeting on January 25 that a pedestrian access point would bemade in Bearsted Road instead. Cllr Bob Hinder told Boxley


Parish Council on January 28 that the news was a “bombshell”, and he had made it clear that it will cause obstructionbyparents ofpri- mary age children (years four, five and six)who do not have to be de- livered to the classroomdoor. Theywill simply use the pedes-


trian access as a drop-off and pick-up point, he argued. Hewas told by the schools’ del-


egation the access would have double yellowlines,whichwould have to be enforced byMaidstone Borough Council. He toldmembers: “That caused


much merriment from (fellow borough councillor)Val Springett andmyself.” Canon JohnCorbyn, the vicar at


Bearsted who has consistently doubted the suitability of the


The packed roomat the Grove Greenmeeting to discuss the plan for schools on the KMC site and right,MP HelenWhately with Fiona Bruce on BBC Question Time


KMC site, said: “We have seen at Roseacre Primary that parents do not heed double yellows or zig zags and often park on corners and places they shouldn’t. “The pedestrian accesswill sim-


ply be used as a place to drop children off, but there would be even bigger problems when it is used as a pick-up zone. “But it is certianly an interest-


ing concession by the applicants, who said that they couldn't find an access via the KMC site.” The primary and special


schools will be run by the Leigh Academies' Trust, which has 23 other schools in its business port- folio.


‘Site is not where need is’


AT THE publicmeeting organised by Boxley Parish Council on Janu- ary 24 in Grove Green, several contributorswhowork in local educa- tion disputed the need for a school, especially one without its own community surrounding it. Dan Smith, head teacher at St John’s Primary in


Grove Green – rated outstanding by Ofsted – said: “There is a need for a school, but not there. The site iswrong because it is notwhere the need is.” It is recognised there are shortages of primary


places in areas such as Bearsted, Vinters, Chiltern Hundreds and Detling.


‘This site or no school at all’


MELANIE Burnham, spokesman for theDfE, said no final decisions hadbeenmade about the amended plan and no submissions had been made (at the time of going to press). She added that negotiations were still ongoing with the


16


landowners and other parties, in- cludingKentHighways, to resolve outstanding problems. “It is not a fait accompli,” she


said. “We have tried very hard to find a suitable site, but there are none available. Itmay be that it is a case of this site or no school at all.”


Maidstone East March 2019 Helen Whately MP, who ap-


peared with Fiona Bruce on BBC1’s Question Time from Lin- coln on January 31, broke the news of the new access being found inside theKMCsite at pub-


lic meeting in Grove on January 24.


However, no mention was


made at that stage of the appli- cants’ intention to place the pedes- trian access in Bearsted Road.


Plot ‘vital’ forwildlife


FOR the DfE application to be successful, Pope’s Field would have to lose its nature reserve status. Residents said the plot was


necessary for the migratory habits of wildlife, particularly as it is the link between the North Downs and Vinters Val- ley. CllrVicDavies told the Janu-


ary 24 meeting: “If you take it away, you will


lose that


wildlife corridor.” Concerns were again raised


about the lack of parking spaces for parents dropping off and picking up children at the new schools, particularly younger primary pupils. Others questioned the desire


to have a special needs school if the students have to travel from as far afield as Canterbury or Ashford by taxi. Even if an access was to be


created at KMC, it would in- crease the distance for pupils to walk along Bearsted Road, whichmany feel is already dan- gerous and too congested. The safety of the footpaths and multiple crossing points re- main amajor concern to locals. Themeeting of Boxley Parish


Council’s environment com- mittee inGroveGreen commu- nity centrewas attended by 180 members of the public, with dozens turned away at the door. The committee voted unani- mously to reject the proposals.


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