Plans for the next phase of the Bleak Hill Primary School expansion have been approved despite fears it will lead to more parking disputes.
St Helens Council’s cabinet approved proposals to expand the Windle primary school back in January 2019 to meet growing demand for places.
Under the proposals, the school will accommodate a permanent 90 places for the 2020 intake.
The estimated cost of the proposed scheme is £2,555,000 and will be funded by the Department for Education.
Planning permission for phase one of the scheme was granted in May 2019, with construction starting in October. Plans for the second phase were also submitted that month but were withdrawn and resubmitted in November.
The application proposes the erection of a single storey extension to the existing school building, which would facilitate four new classrooms, as well as a covered external teaching area, ancillary facilities, storage provision and additional playground provision.
A new drop-off zone, accessed via Fairway, is also proposed, which would provide 15 spaces for parents to use while dropping off and collecting pupils.
The plans were debated by the council’s planning committee in St Helens Town Hall on Tuesday, where two objectors spoke against the plans.
Adele Evans, who lives near the school, urged councillors to reject the plans to prevent further incidents occurring as a result of the drop-off zone.
The full-time mum-of-two said residents have been subjected to “unacceptable levels of verbal abuse and threatening behaviour” as a result of on-street parking disputes.
Parents have been warned by the school about their behaviour in a “strongly worded letter”.
But Mrs Evans said just two days after this letter went out she was again faced with further abuse from an adult who had blocked her in.
Mrs Evans said: “I politely asked them to move their car so I could get my child to a GP appointment.
“I was swore at, I was verbally abused, and this was front of my ill child of 15 months old.
“This is not acceptable. This is yet another incident in a long line of incidents we’ve reported to the police.
“We’ve become sitting ducks because we’ve been threatened – ‘we know where you live’.
“Like other residents, I’ve forwarded it to the police and councillors, and I object.”
Councillors heard that 45 objections to the plans had been received, mainly around highways and parking issues.
Windle Parish Council also objected to the plans on the grounds it will negatively impact residents of Fairway and Regal Drive, add to existing parking issues and create additional air pollution.
Melanie Hale, the council’s service manager for development and building control, said a number of other complaints had been received following the publication of the planning meeting’s agenda.
She acknowledged there are there is existing issues with on-street parking at the beginning and end of school, as is the case in many other schools in the borough.
Ms Hale said if parents are blocking residents in and swearing at them then that is “clearly unacceptable behaviour”.
However, she said it is an existing issue and therefore cannot be taken into account when making a decision.
Eccleston Liberal Democrat councillor Geoff Pearl said residents should not have to put up with bad behaviour from adults dropping children off at school.
But Coun Pearl said the police should be “sorting this out”, adding that he could not see how he could refuse the application on planning grounds.
Planning chairman Seve Gomez-Aspron said a cultural change is needed to encourage more people to walk to schools.
The Labour councillor said there is a culture within society where people want to get “as close to the door as possible in the car”.
Coun Gomez-Aspron said: “Can we fix all of society’s issues through this committee? No. And we need to ask who is it that’s doing that? And it’s the parents at the kids at the school.
“Ironically they’re the ones who then make the road dangerous for their kids who are at that school, so I really don’t know why they do it.”
The planning chairman’s comments were echoed by Thatto Heath Labour councillor Richard McCauley, cabinet member economic regeneration and housing.
He said the issue needs to be looked at more widely by the council.
Coun McCauley said: “As you quite rightly said, a lot of the people that moan about the traffic at schools are the ones causing it to try to get to as close to the school they can.
“The solution – if there is a solution – is a change of attitudes.
“It frustrates me, people 3-400 yards (away) drive their kids to school on the way to work. It’s a frustration.”
To accommodate the new drop-off zone, it is proposed that six trees would be removed with 12 trees planted to compensate for this.
Existing staff and visitor parking to the north of the site off Hamilton Road would also be modified to accommodate eight additional parking spaces.
Ms Hale said overall, officers find the proposal to be acceptable and sustainable and recommended planning permission be granted, subject to conditions.
Planning permission was granted following a vote, subject to various conditions.