Beds, Herts & Bucks

Bedford Borough Council rejects free school plan

School places for 200 children have been left in doubt after plans to open a free school in Bedford were rejected by the council.

It decided that letting Bedford Free School open opposite the town's college would cause too much disruption.

The application was refused by four votes to three "purely on concerns about traffic".

A spokesperson for the proposed school said it was working to "resolve this matter as quickly as possible".

The outline application for the school was for an initial 200 pupils in years seven to 11 at a site on the southern side of Cauldwell Street, a former Bedford College building.

Planning committee head, councillor Anita Gerrard, said the school could have an impact on traffic in the area.

"Cauldwell Street and Kingsway are very busy, especially in the rush hour, and there is no way that traffic can lawfully stop outside the proposed school site," she said.

"Although the school had submitted a travel plan we weren't all convinced that this would be sufficient to overcome the problem."

New application

A statement from the school governors said it was "disappointed" at the decision but its priority was its 200 students.

"They are the most important people to us, and so we remain focused on the preparation required to open the school this September," it said.

"We will of course be appealing the decision, and are confident that we will be successful.

"However, we would also like to explore other ways of resolving the matter with officers in order to avoid unnecessary expense to local taxpayers. We will therefore be submitting a new planning application this week to go before the August planning committee."

Councillor David Sawyer, who is responsible for education at the council, said there would be places at other establishments if the school did not open in time.

He said many parents had applied to other schools through the normal admission system.

"Those children already have a place at those schools, so should for any reason the free school did not open in time those children will have a place," he said.

"For the small number of children who only applied to the free school I would say to their parents to get in touch with our admissions team in Borough Hall and we will do our very best to make sure that your child has a place in September."

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