Plans for 50 homes to be built on a school playing field in South Oxfordshire have prompted objections from a number of public bodies.

Maiden Erlegh Chiltern Edge School (MECE) and Deanfield Homes submitted a full planning application to South Oxfordshire District Council in June to develop a vacant nursery building and 2.5 hectares of the school’s playing fields which MECE says is surplus.

Bodies including Sonning Common Parish Council, Sport England, Oxfordshire County Council and Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) have since objected along with a number of nearby residents. There have also been letters of support, many of them referring to the opportunity the scheme offers for investment in the school.

The application seeks permission for five one-bedroom apartments, 15 two-bedroom apartments and houses, 21 three-bedroom houses and nine four-bedroom houses. There will be a 40 per cent allocation of affordable homes including First Homes, all prioritised for key workers.

In its application the school says funds from the sale will enable it to increase numbers of pupil places, improve its existing sports hall, replace the MUGA with a more modern one, offer a 20-year community use agreement for its facilities and provide a new outdoor changing area. A separate application for the new facilities has since been submitted.

The approved Sonning Common Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) 2016 allocated the playing fields for a residential scheme of 37 homes. A draft 2021 review proposes increasing the number to 50 across an enlarged site.

Sonning Common Parish Council has objected to the development on grounds of traffic access and safety,  footpath provision, security and privacy of residents and raised doubts about the adequacy of screening from the neighbouring Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Sport England objected on the grounds that the argument that the playing field is surplus has not been proven. However it will review its objection after it has considered the application for new sports facilities.

Oxfordshire County Council objected on grounds of highways and archaeology and OCCG objected on the grounds of there being too few consulting rooms for an additional 120 residents.

But Maiden Erlegh Trust (MET)  told Thames Tap the development will provide urgent funding to ensure the school’s future. Before it was taken over by MET it had been placed in special measures by Ofsted and threatened with closure. It is seeking funds from the development to invest in the school.

Jonathon Peck, chief executive officer (designate) of Maiden Erlegh Trust, said: ‘The disposal of an excess school field will serve to provide the funds we urgently need in order to make the necessary structural improvements at the school following years of underfunding.

“It enables us to provide a 21st Century learning environment and community sporting facilities which will not only benefit the school community but the local community more widely.

“The proposals put forward by our preferred partner, Deanfield Homes, have been developed in close consultation with local residents, the parish and district councils and Sport England and I firmly believe that they strike the right balance of supporting the requirement for new homes in line with the NDP and realising the best possible value from this publicly owned asset.”

The team on the project includes Savills as planning consultant, Ascot Design as architect and MJA Consulting on highways and drainage.

See also: Deanfield plans 50 homes at Sonning Common

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