Councillors have deferred a planning decision on improvements at Dunnottar School to allow them to make a site visit, following residents’ concerns about traffic.
Dunottar, located in High Trees Road, Reigate, is seeking permission from Reigate & Banstead Borough Council for a new sixth form centre, assembly hall and classrooms, along with a dining room extension and other refurbishments.
An officer’s report to last Wednesday’s planning committee had recommended approval of the phased development, subject to conditions.
However, written comments submitted by residents, and two people who spoke at the meeting, set out concerns about the impact on the residential roads that provide access to the school.
One fear was that the sixth form centre would mean a higher proportion of older pupils, more likely to have cars (although the maximum number of students would remain 460).
Concerns were also raised about traffic resulting from the hiring out of facilities at evenings and weekends – though this seemed to be more about current use than the new plans specifically.
In response, a planning agent for the school said that the out-of-hours lettings policy had been reviewed: some groups were being asked to find other sites, while others were having their times changed so as not to conflict with school hours.
The agent also said out-of-hours participants were now required to use the school’s car park, rather than the road, and that the school wanted meetings with residents to avoid future issues.
The county highways officer had raised no objections to the plans, the agent noted.
In their debate, committee members acknowledged traffic worries, and suggested extra conditions, including capping the number of evening and weekend users, and having more coach space within the school.
Cllr Jonathan F White, visiting the committee as a ward councillor, perhaps captured the meeting’s mood in saying that he supported the school’s ambitions, but that from the comments and conversations he’d had with residents, there were significant concerns about the impact on neighbours.
He said he would welcome a site visit, adding that he hoped a solution could be found satisfactory to both the school and residents.
Members agreed to defer the item to allow the visit: these aren’t uncommon on planning applications although typically they take place prior to the meeting.
The item was also unusual in containing little discussion about the new buildings themselves.
The site is classified as “urban open land”, and has a Grade II listed building: but the borough’s conservation officer raised no objections, and the planning officer viewed the development as acceptable.
A design statement with the application said the proposals would bring better teaching facilities, the removal of ‘mobile’ classrooms, and allow for larger pupil gatherings in one place such as for assemblies and exams. The sixth form centre would be more modern, and nearer the rest of the school.
The school held a meeting in January with residents to discuss the plans, and also had pre-application discussions with the council.
Dunottar became part of the United Learning group of schools in 2014, and also co-educational, having previously been a girls’ school.
Planning application 18/00326/F
Listed building consent application 18/00327/LBC