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Plans for new Route 39 school at Steart Farm refused

PUBLISHED: 16:29 04 September 2014 | UPDATED: 16:41 04 September 2014

Protesters outside of the meeting at Bideford Town Hall today (Thursday).

Protesters outside of the meeting at Bideford Town Hall today (Thursday).

Archant

Permanent home for North Devon’s first free school was refused by Torridge District Council this afternoon (Thursday).

A PLANNING committee has refused permission for North Devon’s first free school – saying they support the idea but not the location.

Dangerous highways, sewerage and protecting the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) were the reasons given for refusing the Route 39 site at Steart Farm on the A39.

Torridge District Councillors tried to soften the blow this afternoon (Thursday) by saying they fully supported the ethos of the school but voted eight for refusing the planning application.

Councillor Chris Leather, the only councillor to vote in support of the plans, apologised to the parents and pupils for ‘delivering a real slap in the face’.

The proposals, recommended by planning officers for approval, included a school building for more than 700 pupils, which councillors were worried would also be unsustainable for the other schools in the area.

‘Location, location, location,’ was the overriding message with councillors feeling building in the AONB could set a dangerous precedent for other developers.

“I fully support this free school but I don’t see how you can educate children to protect this wonderful environment when they’re desecrating it,” said Cllr Howard Ratledge.

Cllr Jane Whittaker agreed and said it was ‘with regret’ that she would also have to refuse the application.

“Torridge never really got any big bucks for anything,” she said.

“Now we’ve got the offer of a free school and the investment that comes with it, but for me it is totally the wrong location.”

Councillor Mervyn Langmead raised concerns over the proposed crossing, saying that stretch of road was where cars usually overtook slow vehicles they were stuck behind.

“I think it’s an accident waiting to happen and I for one will not be putting my name to where there is a possibility of an accident.”

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