School expansion plans a ‘chaotic mess’

Objectors to expansion of Northgate Primary School due to traffic congestion concerns
Objectors to expansion of Northgate Primary School due to traffic congestion concerns

Expansion of Northgate Primary School has been approved by county councillors despite strong opposition from residents due to traffic concerns.

A new two storey building and a single storey extension will allow the school to increase its intake across all year groups from 60 per year to 90.

The application, which was approved by West Sussex County Council’s Planning Committee on Tuesday last week (June 27), includes demolishing the unused caretaker’s house to provide extra staff parking and a new pedestrian crossing for Barnfield Road.

Geraint Thomas, a Crawley borough councillor for Northgate and a former governor at the school, asked why an on-site pick up and drop off area could not be included.

He explained how the current ‘park and stride’ arrangements at Northgate Playing Fields are treated with ‘derision’ by people who know the area.

He suggested Caledonian House car park be investigated as an alternative.

Barry Jones, who has lived in Hollybush Road for 16 years, described how residents have ‘given up’ trying to leave or return to their homes at school times due to the ‘mayhem that currently results’ and asked why the scheme ‘ignored real difficulties experienced by residents of this area’.

Cllr Sue Mullins (Lab, Northgate and West Green) asked what research had been done about what direction children walked to school from and which roads are the most used, adding: “Our pupils deserve much better than the chaotic mess we are finding ourselves in.”

Graham Alway, principal planning officer, replied: “We feel we have tried to address as many of the concerns as we can.”

Cllr Jacquie Russell (Con, East Grinstead South and Ashurst Wood) described being ‘impressed’ by the school’s travel plan, adding: “For me proper provision for the children is absolutely key but we have to ensure we have mitigated the impact on the highway as much as possible.”

But Cllr George Barton (Con, Sompting and North Lancing), who was the only committee member to vote against the application, said he was ‘absolutely staggered’ a school of Northgate’s size did not have a dedicated on-site pick up and drop-off area during his visit.