Plans for new primary school at Brooklands Park look set to be scrapped

New homes at Crest Nicholson’s Brooklands Park development in Harry Stoke.

Plans to build a 315-place (1.5 forms of entry) primary school on the Brooklands Park housing development in Harry Stoke could be scrapped, if the recommendations of a recent officer report are accepted by South Gloucestershire Council (SGC).

The move would lead to some children having to travel up to 2 miles to attend existing schools in adjacent areas.

Outline planning permission for the Harry Stoke school was granted in 2007, as part of the overall consent for the construction of 1,200 homes on an area identified as ‘Land at Harry Stoke’ in SGC’s 2006 Local Plan. This area includes the now-completed Highbrook Park (phase 1) development, the currently under construction Brooklands Park development and a future Highbrook Park (phase 2) development.

The designated site for the Harry Stoke school lies within the Brooklands Park development.

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More recently, another area known as the ‘East of Harry Stoke (EoHS) New Neighbourhood’ was earmarked in SGC’s 2013 Core Strategy for the construction of a further 2,000 new homes. This area straddles the London to South Wales railway line and is being developed by Crest Nicholson south of the railway and Wain Homes north of the railway.

Construction of the first homes in EoHS is currently under way at Crest Nicholson’s Highbrook View development and Wain Homes’ Mulgrove Farm Village development.

The approved outline plans for EoHS include the provision of a 630-place (i.e. 3 forms of entry) primary school on the Wain Homes land.

Above: Map showing the sites of two proposed primary schools serving new developments at Harry Stoke and the East of Harry Stoke New Neighbourhood. Click the icon top right to view full screen.

A briefing note titled ‘Harry Stoke / East of Harry Stoke Education Infrastructure Briefing’ which was circulated and discussed at a meeting of Stoke Gifford Parish Council on 14th February 2023 reveals that discussions have recently taken place between SGC officers and Crest Nicholson “about education infrastructure across the sites and, more specifically, the need for a school at Harry Stoke”.

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The note points out that the delivery of new dwellings at Harry Stoke and EoHS is happening later than originally anticipated and is happening at a time when birth rates are declining. For primary school provision, SGC’s policy is to consider surplus capacity within a 2-mile radius of new developments. Whereas five years ago, the surplus provision within this geographical spread would have been minimal, with the recent decline in birth rates it has become significant.

Demand calculations

The expected ‘child yield’ from Harry Stoke and EoHS taken together is 776 primary age children, which corresponds to 3.7 forms of entry (FE).

The original proposals for 1.5FE and 3FE schools on the two sites would provide a total of 945 places, i.e. an excess on-site provision of 169 places based on the latest yield estimates.

According to the report, the summer 2022 schools census showed that there were 323 surplus places in existing primary schools within 2 miles of Harry Stoke and EoHS, which could potentially be used to meet the demand from these new housing developments. Even allowing for “unexpected movement in numbers”, there would still be 172 surplus places within the wider area. Assuming that these surplus places would be assigned to children from Harry Stoke and EoHS yields a net on-site requirement for 604 places (calculated as 776 – 172), which could be met by a single 3FE school (630-place).

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Officers also refer to “significant funding constraints” associated with building two new schools. High-level cost estimates given in the report are £9.7m for the 1.5FE school at Brooklands Park and £20.5m for the 3FE school at Mulgrove Farm Village.

With housing developers committed through S106 agreements to making school provision contributions of £11.9m in total, potentially increasing to £17.8m with index-linking, there is a funding shortfall of at least £12.4m for the two-school scenario.

Another factor mentioned in the report is that current Department for Education policy doesn’t permit the opening of primary schools of a size less than 2FE. The paper is silent on the possibility of increasing the size of the Harry Stoke school to satisfy this requirement.

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Recommendations

The briefing note concludes:

“In light of the census, projections, birth rate and admissions data that has been reviewed; coupled with the significant financial implications of building out the [two] schools as originally proposed, it is recommended that we only proceed with the development of one school on the East of Harry Stoke site [at Mulgrove Farm Park] to serve these two developments.”

The report adds that should demand for primary school places in neighbouring areas rise unexpectedly within the medium term, consideration could be give to expanding the EoHS school to 4FE or alternatively expanding provision at another school within the 2-mile radius.

Photo of an access road into a housing development.
Entrance to Wain Homes’ Mulgrove Farm Village, off Parkway North Roundabout.

Editor’s notes:

  • The pupil yield figures given above include an uplift arising from 66 additional dwellings that Crest Nicholson could potentially build on the proposed school site at Brooklands Park.
  • The developer S106 contribution for Harry Stoke is £3.3m if the school is constructed on site but only £2.2m if provision is provided off site (unadjusted for index-linking). However additional contributions would be sought in relation to the increased pupil yield resulting from any additional dwellings built on the school site.

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  1. South Gloucestershire Council’s Commissioning of School Placement Strategy is set to be discussed at a meeting of the local authority’s Cabinet on 11th December 2023.

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