Plans to relocate Tipton Primary School to Ottery rejected

The planned area for the relocation of Tipton Primary School

The planned area for the relocation of Tipton Primary School - Credit: LDRS

Plans to relocate a Devon primary school as part of a new housing development on the edge of Ottery St Mary have been turned down.
Councillors had been recommended to approve the scheme for a 210 space primary school and up to 150 new homes on land opposite Barrack Farm in Exeter Road, Ottery St Mary, when they met on Wednesday,
January 7.

The flood hit Tipton Primary School in 2008

The flood hit Tipton Primary School in 2008 - Credit: Alex Walton

The scheme would have seen the relocation of the existing Tipton St John Primary School away from its current location, with the plans financed in part by using the land in Ottery for housing.
Tipton St John Primary School, which has about 90 pupils, has in the past suffered from repeated flooding with children being evacuated and the school being shut. It led school governors to take the decision to seek to relocate the school from its current location to a new site next to The King’s School secondary school in Ottery.

The planned area for the relocation of Tipton Primary School

The planned area for the relocation of Tipton Primary School - Credit: LDRS

The preferred option had been to try and relocate the school within the village, but after a £3.5m bid to the Government was rejected, and due to the flood risk, a rebuild on the current site was not viable, a move to Ottery St Mary was considered the only realistic option.
But despite councillors agreeing that the school, which is under threat from flood risk, needed to be relocated, they voted against the plans due to the housing element and rejected the application by 11 votes to two. 
Outlining why officers had recommended it for approval, Chris Rose, East Devon District Council’s development manager, said that the provision of housing on agricultural land outside of a built up area boundary (BUAB), below policy level of affordable housing, and the visibility of the site from various viewpoints within the town and local area all weigh against the proposal.
But he added: “The overriding benefits of the proposal through providing a new primary school to replace an existing school which is required due to identified dangers from flooding, control of the impact from the housing at the reserved matters stage together with provision of affordable housing within the town and the construction of a new roundabout which would improve highway safety, are considered to outweigh the dis-benefits of the scheme.” 

The planned area for the relocation of Tipton Primary School

The planned area for the relocation of Tipton Primary School - Credit: LDRS

Colin Butler, executive headteacher, called for the plans to be approved, saying ‘it is not about if the school will flood again, but when’. He added: “I do not want a child to be the first to die due to flooding at Tipton school. The school is wonderful and served the community for over 150 years but the relocation is the only viable proposal, and without the move I fear for the long term future of the school.” 
Cllr Claire Wright, who represents the Otter Valley ward on Devon County Council, said she had never felt so sad about the position she had to take, but called for the committee to refuse the scheme.
She said: “On paper, this breaches all the planning policies it shouldn’t. I hear the anger in the voice of the objectors and the sadness in the headteacher, but I cannot support as contrary to the local plan, neighbourhood plan, and not the right solution for Ottery St Mary.”
Cllr Vicky Johns, who represents Ottery St Mary, added: “I object as it stomps all over the local plan and goes against everything in the Neighbourhood Plan and the Local Plan. We have adequate housing in Ottery and don’t have infrastructure for another 150 houses, regardless of what they are for. This is a planning application and we have to take out why the school has to be relocated.” 
After nearly three hours of debate, councillors voted by 11 votes to two, with two abstentions, to refuse the application on the grounds of the countryside location of the housing scheme which is in an area not allocated for residential development and outside the BUAB, the harmful visual impact, and that it didn’t provide the 50 per cent affordable housing required in policy.

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