11:55AM, Monday 21 December 2020
Claires Court School will not be permitted to build a new campus on greenbelt land after a planning inspector dismissed its appeals.
In 2019, the Royal Borough refused to allow Claires Court School to move its senior boys and girls schools onto the site of its junior boys school in The Ridgeway, off Cannon Lane, next to Maidenhead Thicket.
Following a planning inquiry held from Wednesday, November 18 to Friday, November 27, planning inspector Joanna Gilbert decided to uphold this decision and dismiss the school's appeals.
Ms Gilbert deemed that the impact the development (appeal A) would have on the openness of the greenbelt could not be justified.
A second appeal on the school’s rejected plans to build a sports pavilion on the site (appeal B), which would be shared with Maidenhead Hockey Club, was also rejected.
In her decision, which was published this morning (Monday), Ms Gilbert stated: “The proposed developments in appeals A and B would result in a significant loss of openness and would conflict with some of the purposes of the green belt.
“The massing, height and built form of the proposed nursery and junior, central, and senior buildings, taken together with car and coach parking, associated paraphernalia, and the roundabout and access road would give rise to a significant, harmful, and extensive reduction in spatial and visual openness.”
During the November inquiry, Hugh Richards, who was representing Claires Court School, warned that the school may be forced to shut its existing sites on College Avenue and Ray Mill Road East is the new development was prevented from going ahead.
On this matter, the inspector said: “Even if they did not close, there would be a need to refurbish or remodel provision there, which may or may not be able to be funded.
“If the school does not do so, it could well become less attractive to parents and future pupils than other schools. It is not clear when it would be required to close.
“If the school were to close its College Avenue and Ray Mill Road East sites or diminish its offer in terms of the breadth of its education available, this would obviously first and foremost detrimentally affect the school’s pupils and its staff.
“In this case, I find that those other considerations, including the best interests of the children, are not sufficient to clearly outweigh the harms.”
In response to the dismissal, Hugh Wilding, administrative principal at Claires Court, said: “The news of the planning appeal to dismiss our applications is extremely disappointing for everyone involved.
"We will review the decision notice and what our next steps to bring our school community onto one campus and provide sporting facilities for the community could be.
“We’d like to thank all of the Claires Court community, pupils, families and staff, members of the public, and our partners, in particular Maidenhead Hockey Club and its members, who have supported our plans and been great advocates for our wonderful school and the benefits of the planning applications.
“We remain committed to providing the very best education and sports and other facilities for the benefit of people in local and surrounding areas, and will continue to do so at our three sites.”