CLIFTON Diocese secretary Nick Tarr has described the road to planning permission for a new primary school in central Swindon as stressful, difficult and wrapped in red tape.
Swindon Council has finally given Clifton Diocese and Holy Rood Catholic Junior School the thumbs up for their school plans, which were submitted in April 2013.
Development will now go ahead on the playing fields at St Joseph’s Catholic College, with contractors set to move on-site in three weeks.
Holy Rood, based in Upham Road, was confirmed as the diocese’s new partner in running the school back in September last year, and since then it has been a bumpy road for Mr Tarr and his team.
“The planning process took a long time because some of the initial work, which perhaps ought to have been done earlier, wasn’t done,” he said.
“Although the need for the school is well-established, Swindon Council has to go through its own due processes.
“No one had spoken to Sport England and technically we had to get their agreement because we were building on land used for sport by the college.
“It took a while to sort all that out and then it eventually gets put into the planning queue. We were tearing our hair out at times.
“I’m not being critical of the planning department, but I had the education department chasing them.
“I was trying to arrange meetings with both departments to get things pushed through.
“It felt like we constantly had to get through red tape.”
Holy Cross Primary School, as the new school will be known, will open up in September 2015.
Next month, Holy Rood Junior School will provide some immediate relief for the growing demand for primary school places in Swindon by opening a reception class of 30.
From September 2015, those reception children will move onto the new site as they begin year one, but those in years three, four, five and six at the Upham Road site from next month will not be moved to the new site at any time.
As the junior school slowly empties, the infant school in Groundwell Road will move over and occupy both sites as a second, full primary school.
“We had a debate last autumn with the parents,” said Mr Tarr. “The diocese and Swindon Council were of the view it would be better to move everyone to a new school – it would be easier logistically.
“But there were some issues around parents, who weren’t comfortable with that and how it would work for their own logistics.
“The majority of parents at the junior school wanted their children to stay there, so we had to listen.”
It is expected the new school will be finished in July 2015.