School's homes bid is back on the table

PUBLISHED: 14:50 14 December 2006 | UPDATED: 10:03 31 May 2010

CONTROVERSIAL plans to build new homes and a performing arts centre on the Friends School site in Saffron Walden have been put back on the table. Amendments, including reducing the scale of the housing development from 163 to 144 houses, have been made b

CONTROVERSIAL plans to build new homes and a performing arts centre on the Friends' School site in Saffron Walden have been put back on the table.

Amendments, including reducing the scale of the housing development from 163 to 144 houses, have been made by the school and residents will have six weeks to send any written objections to the council.

The plans, which were first submitted to Uttlesford District Council in April, comprised of 163 homes, a new performing arts centre, refurbishment of the school's buildings and a new children's play area, plus traffic-calming measures.

If given the go-ahead the Mount Pleasant Road school would sell about one third of its land - roughly 10 acres - to raise £20million needed to completely renovate the school, including the replacement of several buildings and a new two-storey junior school.

The school's assistant head Sarah Westerhuis said: "The amendments are the result of careful thought, responding to points raised with us by UDC from formal consultee responses and local consultations.

"The main change has been to reduce the scale and density of the housing, but we have been pleased with the support shown recently by local arts groups who all see the performing arts centre as a valuable addition to the community's facilities.

"We hope UDC will bring this plan to committee early in the New Year."

Saffron Walden's Friends and Neighbours Group is concerned that previous objections raised about the plans will have to be resubmitted.

Member Catherine Flack said: "We have been told by the planning department that none of the objections and points raised previously in letters will carry forward to this revised application, despite the fact that we have been told little has changed.

"If the school has not heeded the voice of the community and significantly rethought the scale and impact of this development, the process of making our opinions heard has to start all over again."

UDC extended its consultation period to six weeks in view of its importance, to which Mrs Flack said she was pleased so people could respond once the new plans are available.

"The group was warned that the school may submit the revisions just before Christmas, meaning the standard consultation period would get buried in the hectic time we all have at this time of year," she said.

"We are very grateful to UDC for giving residents six weeks to respond and we will be asking residents to take another look at the plans as soon as they are available, and once again write to the council with their concerns."

The application will be available for viewing at a date to be announced at the council's offices on London Road, Saffron Walden and Great Dunmow High Street and at www.uttlesford.gov.uk

Any objections must be made in writing, which can also include e-mails sent via the website.

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