PLANS for a extension to a Northwich school may have to be scaled down if it is to ensure it doesn't miss out on a £500,000 windfall.
An application to build a two-storey performing arts and leisure facility at Rudheath High School to mark the school's specialist status as a performing arts college - which will be worth £500,000 over the next four years - was thrown out by Vale Royal Borough Council's planning committee for the second time this week.
Now education chiefs face a race against time to revise plans - as they have to spend a chunk of that £500,000 funding by the end of March, or face losing it.
David Cracknell, Cheshire County Council's director of education and community, said: 'The development at Rudheath High School promises to be a very significant investment in the life and learning of the local community and it would be a blow for everyone if it did not take place as envisaged.
'We are considering the present situation and looking at a range of options. However, I believe that none of the possible solutions before us would exactly match the present planning application. We are very keen to find a remedy because any changes would result in a smaller scheme which would not fulfil the potential of the plan we have before us.'
The planning committee has twice turned down the application because of residents concerns' about its proximity to their homes and the additional traffic it will create.
Speaking at the planning committee meeting, Cllr Colin Walker said: 'I have no objections at all to the provision of the arts but I can totally understand the residents are suddenly going to be faced with this thumping great wall, which is not the best view.
'There is definitely room for improvement in this scheme. It needs to go back and have more thought, I can't support this application in its current form. I am certain there is a compromise which can be reached between Vale Royal Borough Council, the residents and the school.'
Graham Cookson, business manager at Rudheath High, said: 'The DfES has given the school permission to extend our deadline to spend the money to March 31, 2004, but it has made it clear it will not extend the deadline again.'
Headteacher Mike Hayhurst said: 'All I can say is that we are extremely disappointed as the project stands to benefit both pupils at the school and members of the community. We are now reviewing the situation and considering all options.'