Published: 18:12, 12 January 2022
| Updated: 18:31, 12 January 2022
A grammar school's expansion plans have been approved, despite concerns over its impact on a First World War memorial.
Kent County Council's (KCC) planning committee overwhelmingly granted permission for proposals to build a two-storey teaching block at Borden Grammar School in Sittingbourne.
The scheme was granted permission at County Hall in Maidstone earlier today.
It comes as the demand for places for pupils in Swale is forecast to grow over the next year, with a shortfall of just over 70 places expected by September 2023, requiring more accommodation for sports facilities and classrooms.
However, some concerns have been raised over a new-build "dominating" the view of a First World War memorial in the Avenue of Remembrance, dedicated to 181 men from Swale who died in the war, together with trees.
The majority of KCC members said educational need had to be prioritised as 10 voted in favour of the scheme, with just two against.
Cllr Andy Booth (Con), who is KCC's planning committee vice-chair, of Sheppey, said: "Youngsters at primary school on the Isle of Sheppey are desperate for a half decent education. This is their option."
Borden Grammar School is a selective boy's school in Sittingbourne. It holds specialist status in sports and achieved academy status in 2012. A total of 861 pupils, aged from 11 to 18, study at the school, along with 50 staff.
The site is based on the south side of the Avenue of Remembrance, opposite Sainsbury's and The Swallows Leisure Centre. It consists of the original 1920s' two-storey building.
Borden's new-build, due to be completed over the next three years, will provide a three-court sports hall, changing rooms and three classrooms. They include a science lab, ICT and business classrooms.
A total of 37 objections were made over the loss of green space. Opponents had included Swale Borough Council and its leader, Cllr Roger Truelove (Lab).
He said: "While I sympathise with the school's wish to expand its facilities, they do need to take a long-term view of their needs and this proposal appears to be squeezing too much into a limited and restricted area."
At today's County Hall meeting, one resident living near the school in Albany Road voiced opposition to the plans.
He told the committee: "The Avenue of Remembrance had a tree and a plaque for each of the 181 people named on Sittingbourne's war memorial.
"The view along this whole length is an uninterrupted view of trees. The building will tower above the trees, meaning it will dominate the view."
KCC's planning committee was divided over the issue.
Broadstairs county councillor Rosalind Binks (Con), who voted in favour, said: "This seemed to be the most logical solution, not ideal, but most logical. I have sympathy with the school to find a place that maintains their green spaces."
Sittingbourne county councillor Mike Dendor (Con), who lives two streets from the school, said: "Other options have not been properly investigated, such as the Sale Field, which is a very under-utilised piece the school owns."