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Claires Court plans debated at Cox Green Says No meeting

More than 150 people vented their anger at an independent school’s expansion plans at a public meeting.

Protesters packed out Cox Green Community Centre, in Highfield Lane, last night (Tuesday) to hear updates on the progress of applications submitted by Claires Court and developer Berkeley Homes last month.

Permission is being sought for a unified school campus, as well as more than 150 homes and a hockey club at land off Cannon Lane.

But at the meeting Phil Haseler, of the Cox Green Says No group, attacked justifications for the scheme, as well as the impact it will have on traffic and the destruction of greenbelt land.

He said: “The main thrust of the brothers that own the school [Hugh and James Wilding] to make this happen is that they claim their buildings are falling into decline.

He added: “[They say] if they don’t do this then the campus will close, pupils will need to find school places, teachers will lose jobs.

“The way they’ve put that is a bit of a blackmail slant.”

Also speaking at the meeting was Cllr Ross McWilliams (Con, Cox Green), cabinet member for housing and communications, who advised protesters to  focus on policy matters when registering objections, especially whether the plans meet the threshold of ‘very special circumstances’ needed to build on the greenbelt.

Cllr David Coppinger (Con, Bray), cabinet member for planning, said he expected the application to appear before the borough’s planning committee in April at the earliest and added that it showed the need for the Borough Local Plan, which will be submitted this week (see page five), to be approved.

“This site was rejected from the BLP,” he said, “but at the same time I’m only submitting the BLP this week.

“This gives any developer a golden opportunity to apply to build in the borough before that gets approved.

“There’s a little opening here which is why we’re desperate to get it [the BLP] approved as quickly as possible.”

The Wilding brothers were invited to attend the meeting but did not attend.

In a statement, school principal Hugh Wilding said: “Over the last four years, we have undertaken extensive engagement with the community and this feedback has informed our planning application, including significant road infrastructure improvements at Cannon Lane.

“We appreciate and understand that some local residents oppose our plans, however there are also many residents who support our plans.”

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