Published: 08:38, 25 May 2018
The future of a 1,200 pupil secondary school hangs in the balance after a public inquiry this week.
Valley Invicta Academies Trust (VIAT) hopes to create a campus environment by building a non-selective school alongside Valley Park and Invicta Grammar.
But despite fears over parking provision, a public inquiry this week heard Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) asked planners to cut the number of proposed spaces - currently 110.
BAM Construction, hired by VIAT to build the school, appealed to the government last autumn after the council deferred its decision on Maidstone School of Science and Technology, earmarked for playing fields off New Cut Road.
Cllr Bob Hinder told the inquiry: “There is incredible concern from the community, though very few people are actually against the school.
“An increasing number of students from the other schools are parking throughout the day. There’s already this existing problem - this school can only exacerbate it.”
Elizabeth Fitzgerald, of BAM Construction, said: “We’re not convinced local residents will be happy with a reduction given they don’t like what we’re providing at present.”
MBC responded by saying a reduction would “incentivise teachers to use alternative means of transport.”
The building firm offered to work with the council on installing a day time parking ban for non-residents in the Grove Green area to mitigate the parking impact. The council’s legal representative Giles Atkinson told the inquiry MBC did not object to the proposed school, subject to a list of 28 conditions.
Planning inspector John Felgate gave a deadline of Tuesday to reach a potential resolution on each of them. Mr Felgate will then make his suggestion to Secretary of State James Brokenshire.
The school was set to open in September this year, but has now been pushed back to September 2019.
The delay was sparked by BAM Construction's appeal, which came a day before the council was due to vote on its application, with a positive recommendation from officers.
'This new secondary school is desperately needed' - Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately
Faversham and Mid Kent MP Helen Whately is backing the new school, with KCC predicting a shortfall in secondary by 2019.
The Tory MP said: “This new secondary school is desperately needed. If we don’t get it, in the next few years we’ll see more children from Maidstone and surrounding villages making long journeys to get to schools in other towns.
"Children from villages like Stockbury are already having to travel as far as Sheppey because there aren’t enough places in Maidstone’s schools.
"It’s not right for children to have to spend hours every day getting to and from school, and it will just add to the traffic problems on local roads.
"Kent County Council forecasts a shortfall of 84 places for children starting secondary school in 2019, increasing to 372 – that’s over 12 classes – for 2023.
"This new school will have 180 children in each year, so it’ll help plug the gap."
Once a recommendation comes from the planning inspector, Mr Brokenshire will have three months to make a decision on whether the school is delivered.