Bedfordshire school consults community over plan to fund sporting improvements by selling part of playing fields for 64-home development

PUBLISHED: 15:21 10 May 2017 | UPDATED: 15:21 10 May 2017

Samuel Whitbread Academy in Clifton. Picture: Harry Hubbard

Samuel Whitbread Academy in Clifton. Picture: Harry Hubbard

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A school plans to fund improvements to its sporting provision by selling some of its playing fields to become 64 homes, and is now carrying out a community consultation.

A map included in the planning application, showing where the proposed housing would go. Picture: Phillips Planning ServicesA map included in the planning application, showing where the proposed housing would go. Picture: Phillips Planning Services

The Bedfordshire Schools Trust has put forward the plan for Samuel Whitbread Academy in Clifton, saying the land sale would fund sports facilities including floodlit tennis courts, a pavilion, and a floodlit 4G pitch which used by Premiership rugby club Northampton Saints’ academy.

Indoor amenities including a sports hall, theatre, music facilities, ICT suites and more would also become available to the wider community as part of the scheme – which would see houses go up next to the Shefford Health Centre, with access from Hitchin Road.

Samuel Whitbread has not improved its outside sports facilities since opening in 1973, despite pupil numbers rising from 500 to more than 1,700.

Announcing the consultation, the schools trust explained: “This lack of facilities means that, although the school is now one of the largest in the country and is rated as being good with outstanding features by Ofsted, it has some of the poorest sports facilities to be found in a school of its size.”

It goes on to say the lack of pavilion and poor pitch quality at the academy restricts competitive football, prevents after-school matches during winter, and forces school athletics and cricket to be played off site at venues such as Sandy Sports Centre.

Planning permission for the homes has already been agreed in principle with Central Beds Council’s development management committee, and the schools trust is now carrying out a community consultation to meet Department of Education requirements and ensure it is considering all views.

A council spokeswoman said that a final planning decision would be issued only after the completion of a Section 106 legal agreement, which the Comet understands relates to obligations stemming from the site’s educational nature.

A public meeting with representatives of the academy and the Bedfordshire Schools Trust will be held at the school in Shefford Road from 6pm to 8pm on Wednesday, May 24, with plans for the land and sports facilities also available to view. The consultation period runs until June 20.

To find out more call 01462 811519 or email info@bestacademies.org.uk.

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