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Affordable homes estate in Cottam approved despite school place crisis fears

Posted on - 1st April, 2024 - 8:00am | Author - | Posted in - Cottam, Education, Housing, Preston Locations, Preston News, Redevelopment, Schools
Land east of Sidgreaves Lane
Land east of Sidgreaves Lane

An estate of affordable homes has been given the go-ahead in suburban Preston – amid a warning that there will be no local school places available for any of the children who end up living there.

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The 102-dwelling development – on land east of Sidgreaves Lane in Cottam – was approved by Preston City Council’s planning committee.

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All of the properties – to be built by Breck Homes on a plot which sits just south of William Young Way, the new East-West Link Road that opened last summer – will be offered for affordable rent. That means they will be let at 80 percent or less of local market rates.

Read more: New Moor Lane flats given go-ahead as developer agrees to £600k payment

The committee heard that demand for affordable homes in the city was so great that Progress Housing – the social landlord that will manage the new estate – typically receives over 400 bids for a three-bedroomed house.

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Paul Williams, the agent for the application, also told members that the city council will have “first nomination rights” over the dwellings, which will be allocated via an agreed policy that “favour[s] those with local residential or employment connections”.

Sidgreaves Lane maisonette plans
Sidgreaves Lane maisonette plans

Councillors largely welcomed the boost to the affordable housing supply in Preston, but concerns were raised about the capacity of existing schools in the area to cope with an influx of new pupils – and the absence of any new education establishments on the horizon.

Committee member Fiona Duke said:  “All the schools are full round there” – and warned that parents will have to “drive their children to various schools all over the area unless there is good public transport or [school] bus provision”. She added that the latter option may, in any case, be out of the financial reach of families living in affordable homes – and decried the “logistically impossible” challenge already being faced by parents of transporting their children to schools in opposite directions of each other, because of the dearth of local places.

Her committee colleague John Potter said the new estate was at “the epicentre” of what he described as Preston’s “school place crisis” – prompting him and Cllr Duke, the two Liberal Democrats on the committee, to vote against the application.

However, the Labour deputy committee chair – and former planning cabinet member – David Borrow said he was “not prepared to say no to affordable houses for people who are homeless and looking for houses in Preston because of some argument with the county council over schools”.

“The schools will have to be sorted by [Lancashire] County Council  – it’s their responsibility, they can’t get out of it…[they] have got to pull their finger out and get on with it.

“Our job is to…take into account the need for affordable housing for families in this city, so I think we should all be voting for this [application] – [it] is really important,” Cllr Borrow urged.

The committee heard that there was an existing bus route to the south of the proposed estate and provision for further services along the East-West Link Road – and the housing proposal was approved by nine votes to two.

County’s classroom quandry

As the Local Democracy Reporting Service has previously documented, a masterplan for the major development taking place in North West Preston – where around 5,500 homes are expected to be built in the 20 years through to the mid-2030s – dictates that three new schools should be built in that area to accommodate the additional demand : two primary and one secondary.

While the masterplan blueprint sets out indicative locations for the new facilities, it does not specify exact sites.  However, since 2020, land has been reserved for two of the schools – the high school and one of the primaries – within the planning permission granted by Preston City Council for separate estates in North West Preston.

As yet, though, there has been no sign of the schools getting off the drawing board – and County Hall has actually carried out consultations within the past 18 months on other proposed locations for new schools, beyond the masterplan area.

The authority has recently approved a raft of increases in pupil numbers at existing primary and secondary schools in Preston – including Cottam Primary School, where the annual reception class intake has doubled from 30 to 60 children, which will eventually create an additional 210 places.

However, a report presented to a meeting of the county council’s cabinet in January stated that a “downward trajectory of births” has meant that the broader forecast number of reception-aged pupils in need of places across the north of Preston “has not materialised”.

The document also noted that the predicted pace of housing development in the area had slowed, adding that the expected number of additional school places required was now “subject to review” – with options being developed to meet the need that did exist, whilst avoiding an “oversupply”.

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The county council predicts that the new Sidgreaves Lane estate will generate a requirement for just eight extra primary school places – and not result in any additional demand for funding for secondary places.

However, the authority objected to what it regarded as the absence of any confirmation that the money for the primary pupils would be made available via the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal – the vehicle established more than a decade ago to fund the new infrastructure needed to facilitate the development of 17,000 homes across Central Lancashire, including in North West Preston.

City council planning officer Jonathan Evans told the authority’s planning committee that because cash for primary school capacity in that area comes via a charge on developers known as the ‘community infrastructure levy’ (CIL), it would be “double counting” to ask for further funding for such places.

He also said the issue of whether houses or school places came first in areas of development was one of “chicken and egg”.

However, Labour committee member Jennifer Mein – who is also currently the acting opposition group leader at County Hall – said land for schools in North West Preston had been given by developers “in good faith”.

She added: “There has to be more pressure put on the county [council] to make them deliver the schools.

Backing Cllr Borrow’s push to approve the affordable estate the committee was adjudicating upon, Conservative committee member Stephen Thompson said that schools were “not [the city council’s] issue”.

“We need to get those houses built – let’s get on with it,” he said.

What’s being built?

The most common property type on the Sidgreaves Lane estate will be a one-bed maisonette – a two-floor flat with its own external front door. There are set to be 38 such dwellings in total, the design of which – in blocks of either four or six – would “replicate a semi- detached or row of terrace” homes, according to a report presented to Preston’s planning committee.

Elsewhere, 35 two-bed, 23 three-bed and four 4-bed properties will be built in a mixture of semi-detached and terrace styles.

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