Parents are delighted after planning permission was granted for two new free schools despite traffic concerns.
Everyone associated with St Martin’s Academy in Hoole and the University Cathedral Free School was on tenter hooks because refusal would have thrown both primary school projects into turmoil – just four weeks before the start of term.
Steve Docking of St Martin’s Academy said: “We are thrilled to have reached this landmark for the pupils and families of St Martin's who have been incredibly supportive. We now looking forward to focusing on providing an excellent and nurturing start to their educations in September.
“Work will begin immediately on the main building to prepare it for our 25 pupils and we look forward to welcoming them to their first day at big school.”
A Cathedral Free School spokesman declared on Facebook: “I am very happy and very proud to announce that UCFS has received planning approval and restoration work on 10 and 11 Abbey Square will begin very soon!
“Every single parent and pupil has contributed to this, we're all a part of it and we should all feel proud of our involvement!”
Parent Karen Barritt-Williams, who spoke in favour of the cathedral scheme at Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning committee, said it had been ‘an emotional day for all’.
Rebecca Laxton added: “Congratulations! I was there with St Martin's School and I'm made up you also got planning.”
The cathedral free school is opening a temporary base for 60 pupils in Gateway House, Northgate Street, for the start of the autumn term but hopes to move into its permanent buildings next January, housing up to 210 pupils by September 2018.
Opponent Rod Cox, chair of Northgate Quarter Association, told the meeting Northgate Street would ‘jam up’.
He said: “If every child travelled by car there would be 1,000 vehicle movements every day but the applicants predict only 26 parents will actually bring their vehicles to school – that’s 10%.”
St Martin’s, for a maximum of 175 pupils, is also controversial because it will be situated off the busy Hoole Road with parents going by car expected to pick up and drop off their children in neighbouring streets. An application for a temporary classroom at the site, for the initial intake of 25 pupils, was previously rejected partly on highway grounds and the alternative location has yet to be announced.
Hoole ward councillors Bob Thompson and Cllr Alex Black, a planning committee member, both raised highways concerns.
State-funded free schools, which are free of local authority control, are officially opposed by the Labour Party nationally but supported by former Labour premier Tony Blair and enthusiastically promoted by Tory education secretary Michael Gove. Supporters argue they will deliver excellent educational standards but critics fear they will become elitist.