By Local Democracy Reporter
THURROCK Rugby Club could be converted into a temporary school that will help to alleviate a “disastrous” shortfall in secondary school places.
An application to transform the site will be discussed by the council’s planning committee next week and has been recommended for approval.
The new school is expected to provide 120 secondary schools places by September and another 120 by 2020. It is hoped that these new places will help to reduce the growing shortfall of school places in the borough, which could hit more than 300 by September.
It will be a two storey building made up of 10 classrooms, including specialist rooms for science and music lessons. It will be connected to the existing rugby club which will provide a large hall, changing facilities and a playing field.
When the building is no longer used as an interim school the developer intends to use the facilities for the development of a sports and performance centre, named Thurrock Institute of Sport.
The pupils who attend the school will eventually join the borough’s newest academy, named the Orsett Heath Academy. The permanent school will be built adjacent to the rugby club but a completion date is yet to be announced.
In a planning documents, applicant South West Essex Community Education Trust, said: “In the event this development does not go ahead, there will be a significant shortfall of pupil places and a significant problem to solve with no robust plan B.
“The local authority is in an unprecedented position in terms of shortage of secondary school places for September 2019. The application deadline for secondary places for 2019 closed on October 28, 2018 and clearly shows the potential pupil place crisis in the Local Authority.
“If new secondary school places are not found, if every secondary school, currently open in the borough admits their full pupil admission number for 2019, there will be a minimum of 244 children with no offer of a school place in Thurrock. These are not projections but real applications made for 2019 admission.
“This highlights the urgency associated with finding new secondary school places. Indeed, this number is likely to increase further as late applications are not yet factored in. This would clearly be an untenable position for the local authority and disastrous for the families that would be affected.”
While council officers have said the application should be approved, they say it should first be referred to the secretary of state due to concerns over it being built on green belt land.
A council report states: “The application site is in the green belt and the proposal represents inappropriate development.
“The applicant has put forward a strong case for very special circumstances to justify the development, the most significant being the clearly identified provision for secondary school provision in September 2019 and the sporting legacy that would be generated and remain between the school and the rugby club in future years.
“These and the other matters put forward are considered to clearly outweigh the harm the Green Belt.”