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Maidstone Borough Council's planning committee give Jubilee Primary School in Gatland Lane, Fant green light to expand

Jubilee Primary School in Fant has been given the green light to more than double in size.

At a meeting of Maidstone Borough Council's (MBC) planning committee, councillors voted overwhelmingly to allow the school's application for change of use to a free school and take on 240 pupils at its Gatland Lane-based site by 2022.

But some councillors gave their assent with reluctance. Partly this was because of the presumption in favour of free schools enshrined by the government in planning decisions, but also because of the fear an appeal could put hard-fought-for conditions at risk.

Jubilee Primary School
Jubilee Primary School

The committee heard objections to the plan from councillors and local residents, including Cowdrey Close resident Job Mayatt. He reiterated concerns on the impact on parking by Jubilee School's expansion, but accepted 200 less pupils would go some way towards mitigating this.

Brian Skinner of Save Fant Farm Community Group also objected on safety grounds. He said: "Personally I have observed nose to nose confrontation between drivers and seen vehicles driving on pathways to avoid collisions, and all this with 90 pupils. Imagine 210, some of them as young as four years. Let's not mince words, Gatland Lane can be a racetrack sometimes. We know, we live there."

However councillors were reminded that Kent County Highways officers had made no objections to the plans on the grounds of parking, and Jubilee Primary School had already agreed to abide by conditions designed to mitigate the impact on residents.

These include the creation of a clearway between both school entrances into Gatland Lane and the creation of a school travel plan to manage the impact of rush hour traffic.

Travellers have parked on land off Gatland Lane in Fant.
Travellers have parked on land off Gatland Lane in Fant.

Fant councillor Stephen Paine (Con) said the application had turned the community "spoilt and sore" and left him inundated with letters from supporters and detractors. He said: "We need to work on piecing this community back together to fix this."

Planning committee chairman Clive English proposed to motion to agree the application, seconded by cllr John Wilson (Con). The vote was carried nine votes to two.

Currently Jubilee Primary School has 89 pupils, and the initial application was to take on 420 pupils.The school's expansion will also be limited to 30 pupils a year, and after September 2022, the pupil count will drop to 210 when the current intake leave.

The school was opened at Gatland House, a former mental health centre by Jubilee Church last September. Under Free School legislation it was allowed to operate without planning permission for one year.

The original application to expand was deferred in March this year due to a lack of evidence.

Free schools are run by teachers, parents or religious groups and have greater freedom over the curriculum and budgets.

Last month, the Kent Messenger reported how residents had been left in tears and teachers were subject to aggressive confrontations after ongoing parking problems on the road.

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