Councillors unanimously approve new secondary school, dubbed 'a real boost for Houghton Regis'

A new secondary school has been described as "a real boost for Houghton Regis" by a Central Beds councillor, as it was unanimously approved.

Tuesday, 19th January 2021, 1:23 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th January 2021, 1:26 pm
An final rendition of the planned school, including the sports hall (left)

The decision to close Houghton Regis Academy in August 2022 triggered the need for a replacement school for the town.

Kingsland Secondary School will offer places for 900 pupils, as well as a 220-pupil sixth form, according to a report to Central Bedfordshire Council's (CBC) development management committee.

CBC's assets team has submitted a planning application for a three-storey school building and sports hall, with six entrances.

The local authority's full proposals include sports pitches, with an all-weather surface, access, parking and landscaping.

The site is part of the Kingsland Campus, which includes the current academy, Houghton Regis Leisure Centre, the Academy of Central Bedfordshire and Priory Parkside Pre-school.

The development will provide 99 parking spaces with storage for 262 bicycles and will be accessed via Parkside Drive, said the report.

Principal planning officer Stuart Robinson told the committee the site is within the Green Belt, but would be removed when CBC's Local Plan is approved.

"The very special circumstances are that there's a substantial need for an education facility and the site is already an education campus," he explained.

"There doesn't appear to be an alternative location to provide such a school in the area."

Houghton Regis Town Council expressed disappointment over a lack of consultation from CBC, but raised no objection.

It recommended maintenance work on the brook before any building work begins, because of the risk of flooding from the pond.

There were 15 other comments, ten of which opposed the scheme, added the report.

Concerns included overlooking, the flood risk, an increase in parking problems, more noise and pollution, a loss of wildlife in the area and a suggestion the new school should be built where Houghton Regis Academy is located.

"The flooding issues have been addressed," said Independent Tithe Farm councillor Pat Hamill.

"This has been a long time coming with the persistence of residents and fellow councillors to reach this stage," he added, praising portfolio holder for families and education, councillor Sue Clark, who "stood fast with us in Houghton Regis".

"It's a real start and a real boost to the town. And I really hope we can add to that investment. We need a new leisure centre."

Dunstable Watling councillor Nigel Young asked for a 20mph limit around the school entrances.

"It's been a long time since we started any good regeneration in Houghton Regis," he said.

Liberal Democrat Houghton Hall councillor Susan Goodchild said: "I'm absolutely excited and delighted about this application bringing secondary education back into Houghton Regis.

"It will mean so much to so many. I don't have any objections. I'm fully supportive of this."

A statement read on behalf of Stuart Lock for Advantage Schools said: "Our trust is explicitly set up to work in areas where it might be considered difficult to run great schools.

"This includes areas of high levels of deprivation or areas where it's difficult to recruit high quality teachers.

"We can't wait to get started in Houghton Regis."

Councillors unanimously approved the project, subject to its referral to the Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government because of its Green Belt setting.