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Planning permission approved for Sevenoaks Grammar annexe on former Wilderness site

By Annabel Rusbridge-Thomas

Plans for new grammar school education in Sevenoaks have moved one step closer with planning permission now in place to develop the former Wilderness site.

Proposals for the site off Seal Hollow Road won’t be called in by central government meaning developers can begin to refurbish the area.

This is the latest step in the council’s bid for a new grammar school in response to strong request and demand from local parents.

An artist's impression of what the Sevenoaks Grammar annexe and Trinity School would look like in Sevenoaks

As part of the application process, which included a public exhibition in September last year, central government was consulted as the site falls within the green belt.

The Department of Communities and Local Government has now confirmed that the proposal will not be examined in detail by the secretary of state meaning site development can move forward.

Roger Gough, KCC cabinet member for education and health reform, said: “This is excellent news for everyone who has been involved in supporting new secondary schools in Sevenoaks.

“While there is still work to do before selective education comes to the area, this is an exciting time and I’m pleased that, through the combination of these strong planning proposals and the ambition to develop grammar school provision in Sevenoaks, KCC can show its commitment to securing the best education for pupils.”

Weald of Kent Girls Grammar

The new development has been at the centre of much debate and an application to open a satellite school on the site was submitted to Michael Gove last year but rejected as it fell foul of legislation preventing the opening of new grammar schools.

While it is illegal to build new grammar schools in the UK, the government encourages successful schools to expand, meaning it would be possible to open an annexe. Mr Gove said he would welcome fresh applications that fell within the law.

County council education chiefs have been exploring what is being described as a ‘modular’ option where boys and girls would be taught separately but a single governing body or trust board would administer the annexe.

“This is excellent news for everyone who has been involved in supporting new secondary schools in Sevenoaks" - KCC cabinet member, Roger Gough

The Weald of Kent Girls Grammar in Tonbridge consulted parents in March about becoming a co-ed school, which would have allowed it to become a sponsor of the mixed annexe. However, parents rejected the idea and it was felt the scheme would be mothballed.

However, in June The Weald of Kent confirmed it had a meeting with County Hall officials about the ‘modular’ idea,

KCC has said it will look at all options to try and address the long-standing problem of a shortage of selective school provision in Sevenoaks but it is not known which other school might be involved.

Developer Bond Bryan is working with Kent County Council and construction partner Willmott Dixon Construction to deliver the £30m education campus.

Local residents have seen workmen and diggers arriving at the site, and a sign erected stating it is reserved for Willmott Dixon subcontractors.

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