School expansion irritation

The Childrens Workshop is behind this fence with the swimming school advertisement, on the corner of Belvedere and Queen Victoria roads.

Claremont residents are appealing City planning approval for a four-storey development on the corner of Belvedere and Queen Victoria roads, saying it will cause more congestion in an already congested area.

The owner of The Children’s Workshop, a Montessori nursery school, applied to turn the single-story building into a four-storey one for 180 pupils and with eight flats for up to 12 students.

The school’s current entrance and exit is off the narrow Selous Road.

The Municipal Planning Tribunal has approved the application but, says the City, on condition it is for 160 and not 180 pupils; no more than six flats for students only; a minimum of 18 parking bays with a drop-and-go wide enough for two-way traffic.

But residents are unhappy, and Nicolette Clark, who lives in Queen Victoria Road, has led the charge against the development with support from other residents, the Greater Lynfrae Civic Association, businesses and the ward councillor.

Ms Clark told a Municipal Planning Tribunal meeting in February that the development was bad for the area.

She argues there should be at least 26 parking bays for a school with 160 pupils; the flats don’t look like student digs and there’s no guarantee they’ll be used as such; student flats at a nursery school pose a bizarre land-use mix and a hazard for small children; there’ll be more traffic congestion, especially in the mornings when children are dropped off; and a four-storey building is out of character with the area.

Furthermore, Ms Clark argues, the City has approved the plans based on a flawed traffic management assessment stating a distance of 43m from Belvedere Road to the school entrance, whereas residents measured it to be 32m.

Mr Clarke also quoted one of the City’s own traffic engineers who said:

“I personally would be sceptical about the use of the drive through stop and drop as it looks quite tight and may congest easily.”

The engineer confirmed his stance with the Tatler.

According to the City’s planning department, the development would have one entry and exit point in Queen Victoria Road along with 18 parking bays and three stop-and-go bays.

The school’s owner, Peter Williams, said the “parking and traffic chaos on Selous Road” would be addressed by relocating the school entrance to

Queen Victoria Road away from all the residences.

“This solves the traffic problem,” said Mr Williams.

Teachers would be on duty in the morning to help parents dropping children off.

Mr Williams said CCTV cameras and motion sensors would monitor entrances and exits and students would have to comply with rules of conduct.

Councillor Sharon Cottle has signed the appeal against the development but did not want to comment at this stage.

Simon Potts’s wife, Mandy, owns a hair and beauty salon in Belvedere Road and said: “At present, there is an unacceptable system of fire drill that the school uses, whereby the children all come into our car park, which is very busy and very dangerous for the children. Where are they going to put 180 children in the event of a fire or fire drills that is safe for them? They cannot use our car park.”

Ms Clark also wants to know how the school will comply with fire and safety rules if it can’t run safe fire drills.

“Surely, the children are not going to be expected to come streaming out of the only exit point onto Queen Victoria Road, 32m away from a busy intersection?” she said.

GLCA secretary Val Bennet lives in Selous Street and said the association’s primary concern was the school children’s safety.

“No provision is made for young children crossing from the drop-and-go bays, to safely cross the traffic on the circular driveway. There is no pavement around the building for children to access the building. There is only one access point where cars will enter and leave via this gate, which is also the only pedestrian access.”

City spokeswoman Priya Reddy said the application – currently subject to an appeal – was following due process, as required by the Municipal Planning By-law and the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act.