Bleak Hill Primary's £2.5 expansion plans approved

Bleak Hill Primary School will benefit from a 2.5m expansion programme
Bleak Hill Primary School will benefit from a 2.5m expansion programme

Plans for a £2.5m expansion to Bleak Hill Primary School are set to go ahead after being rubber-stamped by St Helens Council’s cabinet.

The council has a statutory duty to ensure enough school places are available within the local area for every child of school age.

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A consultation was carried out late last year on proposals to expand Bleak Hill, in Windle, in order to meet local demand for places from September 2019.

The proposals are to accommodate 75 additional places into reception year for the September 2019 intake, rising to a permanent 90 places for the 2020 intake.

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The estimated cost of the overall proposed scheme is £2,555,000, including a provision for professional fees and charges.

The estimated cost of the three construction phases are: Phase 1: £1,116,000; Phase 2: £1,209,000 and Phase 3: £230,000.

The total cost can be funded by a grant awarded by the Department for Education to ensure that adequate numbers of school places are available.

The expansion of the school is subject to planning permission being granted.

Cllr Joe Pearson, cabinet member for developing young people, presented a report to cabinet on the expansion this week.

The Billinge and Seneley Green councillor said the projected increase in primary school age population for Eccleston in Windle means the council must take action to provide additional school places in the area “immediately”.

There are currently 305 reception year places in the Eccleston and Windle planning area, with forecasts showing that from September 2019 there will be a need for 319 places, rising to 324 in 2021.

Cllr Pearson said Bleak Hill provides the best site for a permanent expansion.

Parents, staff, governors and other relevant parties were consulted on the proposals in September and November of last year.

The main concern was around the potential for increased traffic congestion around the school at the beginning and end of the school day.

Cllr Pearson said a traffic risk assessment would be carried out as part of the application to obtain planning permission for the new build.

Cllr Pearson said: “The traffic risk assessment will also assist the school in devising a travel plan that will hopefully bring about change with regard to delivering and collecting children from school.

“It is important to note that the low overall response level from parents, 90 per cent of whom are residents in the Eccleston and Windle area, suggests there is no overwhelming expansion to the expansion plans.”

Cllr Marlene Quinn, cabinet member for adult social care, said the expansion of Bleak Hill – which was rated as outstanding by Ofsted in 2017 – could impact on the intake of surrounding schools.

Cllr Quinn, who is a governor of the nearby Queen’s Park Primary Schoo., said: “Parents will automatically, or the majority of parents will automatically, look at the performance of the school to take their child to.

“And that in itself can add a pressure on those surrounding schools.”

Cabinet approved the capital works associated with the expansion and agreed to appoint a contractor to progress Phase 1 of the overall scheme to full design stage.