Early plans for new Middleton school need improvement, planning chiefs claim

Early blueprints for a brand new school in south Leeds have gone before Leeds City Council planning chiefs this week.

Friday, 30th April 2021, 5:03 pm
Updated Friday, 30th April 2021, 5:04 pm

The Department for Education has been working with Leeds City Council for the past four years to build a new school on the site of the former Middleton High School, now a transport depot, off Acre Road.

The Lawrence Calvert Academy is set to be run by the Cockburn Multi Academy Trust, and is expected to be open in time for the 2022/23 academic year.

Despite showing broad support for the scheme, planning chiefs spoke of concerns around the building design, landscaping and car parking spaces.

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An artist's impression of the school shown at the meeting.

Coun Colin Campbell (Lib Dem) said: “I think you need to address the issue of pupils who will get there from slightly further away. It might be a bus, and I’m not sure where you’d put those.

“We always underestimate the staff parking for schools – I get the feeling that a large secondary school will generate considerably more staff than you have space for.”

Coun Caroline Gruen (Lab) added: “I have a concern about the grey box construction on the fascia of the school which is an arrival point.”

Coun Kayleigh Brooks (Lab) complained that the landscape designs were “very uninspiring”, and that not much thought had been given to how the children were going to use the space.

She was told work was still being done on the landscaping, and that more detail would be included in the full planning application.

Coun Brooks added: “I have safeguarding concerns that children are expected just to jump on public transport rather than have a dedicated school bus.

“It’s going to be a more local intake, but what if more pupils come from outside the area. You might live nearby but not close enough so a child might be able to walk there.”

Since the proposals are at the pre-application stage, no final decision has been taken by planners.

The idea for the school dates back to 2017, when the council supported an application from the Cockburn Trust to open a new seven-form entry free school on the transport depot site – once home to Middleton High School.

The council closed its depot and transferred ownership of the site to the Department for Education in September 2018, with the original expectation being that the new school would aim to open in September 2019.

A document written by Leeds City Council officers added: “The DfE are responsible for the delivery of the permanent Cockburn Laurence Calvert free school and their current programme shows a very constrained programme for the opening of the school for September 2022.

“To date, the ongoing shortfall in south Leeds has been managed through placing temporary bulge cohorts and permanently expanding existing schools in the South.

“However, without the Cockburn Laurence Calvert free school opening for 2021 and potentially 2022, it is no longer possible to meet the full need through the existing school portfolio.”

The document claims the proposed works include building a three-storey whole school block, along with external works, with space for 1,050 pupils.

The council has recently gained planning approval for a temporary school to be built in order to meet the urgent need for school place. It is due to open in September 2021.

More detailed plans for the permanent school are expected to be submitted to the council in the coming months.

Caroline Gruen is standing as the Labour Party candidate in the local elections on May 6 for the Bramley and Stanningley ward. The other candidates are:

Elizabeth Anne Bee – Liberal Democrats

Adam Daniel Cook – Conservative Party

Clive Richard Lord – Green Party

Daniel Paul Whetstone – Social Democratic Party