New village school set for approval

A new £1.7m village school looks likely to be given the go-ahead next week, despite a mixed reaction to the scheme at Castle Acre.

A new £1.7m village school looks likely to be given the go-ahead next week, despite a mixed reaction to the scheme.

The county council wants to build the 77-place school off Back Lane, Castle Acre, as a replacement for the existing school, which has changed from a first, catering for five to eight-year-olds, to a primary for children aged five to 11 under a reorganisation of Norfolk's education structure.

The current school, which dates from the late 1800s, cannot accommodate the additional number of pupils and has a number of shortcomings, according to a report to Friday's meeting of the council's planning (regulatory) committee.

There are only two classrooms, an under-sized hall, a headteacher's office which also serves as a general store and staffroom, no room for medical inspections and limited disabled access.

But proposals for the new school have been opposed by West Norfolk Council, which says they go against local planning policies, and brewer Greene King, the owner of the site, on the grounds that the design does not lend itself to the development of the remainder of the land.

Six letters of objection have also been sent to County Hall by residents of Back Lane, who question the need for a school in the light of an ageing population and the number of second homes and raise a number of further concerns, including parking, traffic congestion and the impact on wildlife.

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But there have been 33 letters of support for the development, underlining the urgent need for a new school and pointing out that it were moved away, it would lead to the decline of Castle Acre.

Facilities at the new school would include a 90sqm hall, a library, facilities for individual or group work, provision for children with special educational needs, offices, toilets and a servery for school meals, plus a hard surface play area and playing field.

Committee members are being asked to authorise the approval of planning permission.

The Castle Acre scheme forms part of the Norfolk Schools Project, which will involve nearly £80m of development at 36 schools across the county, either to provide replacement buildings or extensions, or remodel existing premises.

The existing school recently received a glowing report from Ofsted inspectors.