HOLMES Chapel Comprehensive School has been given the go-ahead to build a new teaching block to cater for 150 additional pupils.

Cheshire East’s southern planning committee was unanimous in approving the scheme on Wednesday (August 3).

It also recommended the council’s planning officers look into whether a developer’s cash, which is no longer being used for a separate highways scheme, could be diverted to fund a drop-off point at the school to help with the local gridlocked roads.

Much of the debate about the proposal centred around highways issues.

Ward councillor Les Gilbert, speaking as a visiting councillor, said the school has an excellent reputation and he supports the application but he was concerned about the impact on residential roads.

Knutsford Guardian:

Cllr Les Gilbert

He told the committee: “Conditions on the roads around the school at the beginning and end of the school day are generally chaotic.”

He suggested this could be resolved by creating a drop-off and pick-up point in the school grounds.

“I’ve sounded out the applicant on this and he’s receptive, subject to funding, and I believe there is funding,” said Cllr Gilbert.

“We have more than £500,000 sitting in the bank by way of a developer highways contribution which was intended to replace the Holmes Chapel traffic lights with a roundabout.”

He said that scheme was now a ‘dead duck’ because the likely cost would be between £2-3m.

He said the developer had been involved in discussions and was happy for the money to be used in this way.

He added: “I’ve raised it with our infrastructure scheme but so far I’m getting no response so I’m looking to the committee for assistance here.”

Tony Hassall, from Holmes Chapel Comprehensive, told the committee Cheshire East Council had asked the school to increase its numbers by 150 from September 2023 because of the new houses being built in the area.

He said a traffic plan had been submitted which focused on ways to reduce the need for students and staff to bring cars to school as well as managing the flow of traffic and children in and out of school sites.

“This project is the single, biggest investment in our school since it was built in the 1970s and we welcome the investment,” said Mr Hassall.

Cllr Allen Gage asked if the developer’s S106 cash could be re-purposed for the school drop-off point.

The council’s legal advisor said they would have to look into that as it depended on the original 106 agreement.

Committee chair Andrew Kolker, who is also a ward councillor, said: “This [building] needs to be up and running as soon as possible. It’s desperately needed.”

Knutsford Guardian:

Cllr Andrew Kolker

He added an additional 10 to 30 cars was a significant number in the nearby cul-de-sacs.

“People aren’t able to leave to get to work,” said Cllr Kolker. “I frequently get complaints, as does Cllr Gilbert, on this very issue, so something needs to be done.

“We have a building company down the road who’s contributed half a million pounds to a project that cannot be delivered because it costs many times that, so we do have that money and they do seem willing to spend it on something else… so I would like a condition or some mechanism whereby the dialogue can take place between the school, between highways and the funding provider.”

Cllr David Marren moved the application be approved and this was seconded by Cllr Steve Hogben.

The scheme was approved and delegated to the head of planning to deal with an issue related to Sport England, which Mr Hassall said the school is confident can be resolved, and to explore the contribution of the S106 money.