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Traffic and safety fears emerge from Bearsted Road school proposal

By Alan Smith

The public have been given their first chance to view proposals for two new schools in Maidstone.

The Department of Education organised a drop-in exhibition to view the plans at the Hilton Hotel.

The scheme will create two new schools on a site to the east of the Cygnet Hospital at the edge of the Maidstone Medical Campus.

Dee Pickerill, the principal designate at Snowfields Academy, and Neil Willis, deputy CEO at Leigh Academies Trust with a model of the new schools
Dee Pickerill, the principal designate at Snowfields Academy, and Neil Willis, deputy CEO at Leigh Academies Trust with a model of the new schools

The access will be from Bearsted Road at a point closer to Bearsted than the medical campus roundabout.

The Leigh Academies Trust will run the schools and has even already developed the design for the school blazers.

The Bearsted Academy will accommodate 420 primary-aged pupils and the Snowfields Academy will be an SEN school catering for 120 pupils with special needs.

The schools will be well supported with a full size football pitch, two smaller pitches, two all-weather multi-use games areas, an ampitheatre for outside performance, an outdoor gym, separate play areas for nursery and reception children, and a sensory garden.

How the schools will be set out
How the schools will be set out

The school drive ends with a roundabout, so that parents can drop off their children and exit without performing difficult turning manoeuvres.

The whole site will be shielded to the north and east by a 15m wide woodland border.

Boxley Parish Council, who were given their own showing of the plans, found the facilities impressive, but had grave concerns over the proposed access to the schools and the extra traffic that would be generated in the area.

Chairman Bob Hinder said: "The applicant left knowing that, in no uncertain terms, residents were not happy with the prospect of more traffic, more congestion, but equally were extremely unhappy that the safety of children appeared not to be paramount in the decision to use this site.”

Cllr Bob Hinder: not acceptable
Cllr Bob Hinder: not acceptable

The Bearsted Road is already exceedingly busy and set to get busier still with further development planned at the medical campus, in New Cut Road and a new M&S store planned near J7 of the M20.

Many had expected the access would have been from within the medical campus site, but that is not the case.

Boxley Parish Council said safety issues made the proposal unacceptable.

The plans indicate 85 main car park spaces and 35 pick-up and drop-off slots for cars and mini-buses, with most of the SEN pupils expected to arrive by mini-bus.

Cllr Vic Davies said that would be nowhere near enough. The applicants imagined parents stopped, dropped their children and drove off, but experience elsewhere indicated parents often arrived 30 minutes before drop-off and pick-up times, and the scheme would not cope with such high levels of parking.

The public examine the plans
The public examine the plans

The DoE expects to encourage children to walk to school by widening the existing footpath, imposing a 30mph speed limit and constructing two pedestrian crossings.

Cllr Hinder said: "Nobody is disputing the need for more schools, but even the applicant had to admit that there are real local traffic problems."

A planning application is expected before the end of December.

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