Cllr Brian Kenny said he had attended the site visit. He said the list of concerns of local residents were covered by the conditions. He welcome the condition regarding the Multi Use Games Area. The games area was used all year round which explained the need for floodlights. Agreement had been reached between the school and a local church to use the church car park. The headteacher had been involved in brokering this agreement.
Matthew Rushton pointed out the floodlights would be angled. Cllr Gilchrist asked about conditions 7+8 specifically line 3 of condition in relation to trees. He asked if it was a standard form of wording. The answer given was that when the report was drafted it allows officers (in this case the Tree Officer) to pick between a number of clauses.
Cllr Mitchell proposed that the plans be approved, Cllr Elderton seconded. The vote was unanimous in favour and the application was approved.
The Chair, Cllr Dave Mitchell asked officers to address the three issues raised by councillors. The first two were the loss of view for residents & disruption. Mr. Rushton answered that sunlight and views were not protected in law and it was also mentioned that the School Travel Plan included School Keep Clear markings.
Cllr Kelly said asked what could be done to encourage the construction traffic to avoid residential routes. Could a condition be added to achieve this? He said it was “chaos at the moment”.
The answer given was that the school travel plan could be “joined up” to the one for Redcourt & St. Anselms College by the school travel plan co-ordinator. Construction traffic could use any route they wish.
Cllr Kelly asked about the condition limiting the time of use from 8-8 and whether there was flexibility over the times although it was limited to school use. He expressed concern over the use of floodlights in a residential area.
The Chair said the floodlights were allowed to stay. The answer given to Cllr Kelly was that the times were requested by the school. The Highways representative went on to say that there could be benefits of working together on the school travel plans in the area. He said the construction traffic was controlled by the Road Traffic Act, Health and Safety at Work Act and regulations. The route of construction traffic couldn’t be specified apart from those controlled by a Traffic Regulation Order.
As Birkenhead High School is in Claughton and Oxton ward, two local councillors addressed the Planning Committee with resident’s concerns over the proposals agreed by Cabinet last week.
Cllr George Davies, Claughton addressed the committee first. He talked about a public meeting held at the school at which he felt residents hadn’t been given enough information. His three main items of concern were:-
a) traffic as the roads had been built in the days of horse and carriage and concerns over an increase in traffic including construction traffic and off the site. He wanted any speed reduction measures to take into place the other nearby schools
b) sports pitch concerns – which was now only for school use
c) concern over the size of the building
He finished with asking that they make sure they work with residents.
Cllr Alan Brighouse, Oxton then addressed the committee. He said it was one of the largest capital expenditure programs in Oxton and would make an impact on the local area. He had spoken to Oxton residents next to the school and 90-90% were supportive. However they did have concerns about traffic. Birkenhead High School is one of many schools in the local area which causes traffic problems. He said it was a nice part of Oxton but with a Victorian road system not designed for its current usage.
He also said that the proposed site for the multi-use games area was an unofficial car park. The proposals would lead to an extra two hundred pupils and take away the unauthorised car parking. He went on to mention the hockey pitches and the new music/cycle area. He compared it to Birkenhead Lawn Tennis Club which has floodlit courts till 10.30pm. He mentioned the protection for the trees on the site and that he’d like to see more work with highways about road safety. He said the school travel plan should encourage walking and less dependence by 6th form students on cars. He thanked the committee for listening to him.
The agenda for last night’s meeting can be found here.
The meeting started late. Prior to the meeting the officers had insisted they were having a briefing (despite none of the committee being present). Quite how officers larking around and hitting each other over the head with the plan for Birkenhead High School Academy constitutes a briefing is anyone’s guess but Matthew Rushton was quite adamant that this was a briefing. He got quite annoyed when I pointed out the briefing started at 3.15pm and therefore by that time it was finished. Strangely, he said we can’t treat you (referring to myself and my wife) differently to any other member of the public.
However, officers are often under deliberate instructions from councillors to treat different members of the public differently. We only have to go to yesterday when the thirty members of the public were all ushered for drinks in the Mayor’s parlour and a reception (before and after) whereas myself and Leonora were told (as far as I know no one else was) not to sit on the first three rows of the public gallery.
Minutes of the meetings on the 27th October and 9th November were agreed. There were no declarations of interest. Item 5 (an extension of Melrose, Oldfield Road, Heswall) was deferred for a site visit. Item 7 (57 Argyle Street South, Tranmere) was also deferred as officers had asked the applicant for extra info. The petition regarding item 7 was mentioned; it was asked whether it was fair for the petitioners to be denied extra time when the applicant had more time. Matthew answered that the last date for comments had passed.
The agenda was then reordered to take into account the numbers of the public present for each item with the item on Birkenhead High School first.