Unanimous approval was given to plans for a new building to replace Harrogate High School this afternoon (March 17).
The only school in North Yorkshire to be chosen for a replacement building by the government’s Priority Schools Building Programme (PSPB), the proposal for a smaller but brand new building was welcomed by councillors today.
It isn’t the most beautiful building but it is needed and needed very quickly.Hookstone Coun Pat Marsh (Lib Dem)
Submitted in December 2014, the new building could be completed by summer 2016, according to contractors Laing O’Rourke.
At Harrogate Borough Council’s (HBC) planning committee, Hookstone Coun Pat Marsh (Lib Dem) said: “It isn’t the most beautiful building but it is needed and needed very quickly.
“I remember the existing school as a new building and it presented some problems then, so I just hope we get 53+ years out of this building.
“It is smaller and I do think that is a little bit of a concern. We do need to have the flexibility of extending there for young people who will want to go to secondary school there.
“I do welcome it as the existing buildings are not fit for purpose, so I support the officer’s recommendation.”
The capacity for the building would be 780 pupils - a reduction of more than half of the current building, built over 50 years ago, which can house 1,508 students.
There are, however, only 632 students on the rolls at Harrogate High and, should this number rise over time, there is scope for the new building to be extended to accommodate more than 1,000 pupils.
Harrogate High School headteacher Andrew Bayston said: “We are very pleased to be granted planning permission for a brand new building and a new learning environment that will be great for our young people.
“When we move into the new building in 2016 it is going to mark a new and exciting phase for the school, but as always before that we are focused on our students’ learning.
“We have got plenty of space to grow - we are expanding as a school now and attracting a good many applications. This is an increasingly popular school and an increasingly popular area to move into.”
This afternoon, HBC planning officer Adam Siddall went through the plans, which include a single storey sports centre.
Responding to Bishop Monkton Coun Ian Galloway (Con), who asked whether there was any agreement about community use of the new sports centre, he said: “There is a condition for the agreement of the community use of the facilities before it is made available for use.
“It is important that a new community use agreement is required and it is being drawn up in consultation with Sport England.
“It is a requirement, it is important, and it will need to happen in perpetuity.”
There will not be a swimming pool incorporated into the scheme, according to the plans. Raising this, Mr Siddall said: “Sport England acknowledged that the loss of the swimming pool would be regrettable, but said it was not essential as others are considered to adequately meet swimming pool provision for Harrogate at the moment.
“It also isn’t a priority for the school to retain the pool either. It is, according to the school, expensive to run and there is no money available as part of the PSPB to accommodate one on the site.
“As a result of that it is considered that the loss of the pool is acceptable.”
However, Mr Bayston said the school governors are still discussing what the possibilities are for the pool in the future.
He said: “We are aware of the value of the swimming pool. The provision of a new swimming pool is an expensive one but that is something the governors have to decide on.”
Some concerns were raised during the application process and Yorkshire Water said the drainage strategy is not yet satisfactory as on site investigations are required to prove the existing connectivity of surface water discharge from the site to the local sewer network and assess discharge rates.
One letter of representation from the adjacent St Robert’s Catholic Primary School neither objected to nor supported the application, but said it was concerned over the safety implications of construction traffic passing their shared access with the high school.
St Robert’s requested a condition to prevent construction traffic entering or leaving the site during school opening and closing times, which Mr Siddall said had been implemented.
The restrictions on deliveries, therefore, will be Monday to Friday in term time between 8am and 9.20am and 2.30pm and 3.45pm.
To compensate the contractor, officers have agreed to extend the evening cut off for deliveries from 6.30pm to 7pm.
Construction zones for the prefabricated building could be set up by June 2015, with actual building work to begin by October 2015.
Though students should be in the new building the following year, the whole project, which also includes the demolition of the existing building and landscaping works, is forecast to be completed by March 2017.
Mr Bayston added: “The school will be well provided for in terms of facilities and a high quality sports centre, and we have draft agreements for continued community use within that.
“We are already engaged in the design meetings of the project team and we have been working for some time with them and the representatives of the contractors and architects.”