A SCHOOL that will become the ‘heart’ of one of Oxfordshire’s biggest new housing estates has secured planning permission.

Construction on the new 420-pupil Kingsgrove Primary School, part of the 1,500-home development being built at Crab Hill in Wantage, is due to start in months.

Vale of White Horse District Council approved more detailed plans for the school the week before last, despite objections from Wantage Town Council and Wantage and Grove Campaign Group.

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It already agreed the school in principle in 2015 as part of outline planning permission for the entire Kingsgrove scheme, which also includes a neighbourhood centre, sports pitches, employment space and community facilities.

St. Modwen, the developer leading the 227-acre residential scheme, hopes to start building in June and open the two-form entry school in September next year.

Rob Draper, development director at St. Modwen, said: "This is a major milestone in the evolution of this project, with the school and infrastructure works creating the heart of this new community.

Oxford Mail:

An artist's impression of the new Kingsgrove estate at Crab Hill in Wantage. Picture: Roberts Limerick architects

“The plans for the school will create a light, flexible space that is ideal for modern learning and will serve future generations.

“The carefully considered layout also means the building can be zoned to allow extended use of the school during evenings and weekends by a variety of users.”

Multi-academy trusts have bid for the role of running the school, as all new schools are now academies rather than council-run, but the winning bid is not yet known.

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The design of the school features glass, timber, red brick and pitched roofs, and there will also be playing fields, sports pitches, a playground, a multi-use games area and car parking.

St. Modwen said it worked closely with Oxfordshire County Council on the design and also hosted a public exhibition in September.

Planning consent has also been granted for works on the site’s road network, a car park for the sports pavilion, which will double up as drop-off space for the primary school, a public square in front of the community centre and an open woodland space.

Oxford Mail:

Aerial view of the 92-hectare Crab Hill site, facing North Earth over Wantage.

Both the town council and Wantage campaign group objected to the school plans, raising issue with the adequacy of facilities such as the location of the toilets.

The town council’s response to the application added: “There is a possibility of major congestion issues at break times and the beginning and end of the school day and associated noise and accidents because of the number of pupils.”

However, planning officers’ pre-decision report said: “The layout plans have also been agreed with the county council, who is ultimately responsible to ensure the building meets the required operational needs for the new school...It would be unreasonable to withhold permission on such grounds.”

In last week’s Herald Julie Mabberley, manager of the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group, raised concerns in her column that the Kingsgrove school was ‘settling for minimum standards.’

However in a letter to the Herald this week, the Vale Academy Trust’s chief executive Simon Spiers disputed this and spoke of the ‘stunning aspects’ of the design.

The trust runs many schools in the Wantage area, including King Alfred’s Academy, but has not yet confirmed if it has bid for Kingsgrove.

It has already announced that it will run the new all-through school at Grove Airfield, which is set to open in September 2022.