A primary school in Ribble Valley has been urged to introduce a so-called ‘walking bus’ for pupils after being given the green light to build an extension.
Barrow Primary School applied for the single-storey add-on and games area at its Whalley Road site to help it accommodate the growing number of families wanting their children to attend. It will admit an extra ten pupils to its reception class next September.
Lancashire County Council’s development control committee approved the plan, after hearing that the school is almost three times oversubscribed for places next year - even after the increase in capacity. The extra space will house a new hall section, classroom, kitchen and toilets at the rear of the building.
“Barrow Village is growing hugely, with hundreds of new houses being built,” headteacher Janet Pay told members.
“From next year, the admissions will be raised from 20 to 30 [children] - and we already have 80 applications.
“Our kitchen is just seven metres square and has just two staff who do brilliantly. Our existing playing field is waterlogged and unusable for much of the year and we urgently need to fulfil our OFSTED requirements for outdoor space for early years groups,” she said.
A report presented to members outlined planning officers’ concerns about parking problems close to the 140-pupil primary at the start and end of the school day. It is recommended that the school make it a “defined objective” of its travel plan to launch a ‘walking bus’ from the nearby Barrow Brook Services, which has agreed to allow use of the site.
Committee member Stephen Clarke said the use of such a scheme should be “encouraged” by the school, where 70 percent of pupils are currently arrive by car.
“Across Lancashire, too many people are dropping their kids off - and it is a danger to children,” he said.
Walking buses are essentially groups of children walking to school, accompanied by an appropriate number of adults.
A plan to demolish the dining hall and a former chapel as part of a proposed extension to the front of the school was withdrawn while work is undertaken over the summer to determine whether bats are nesting in the area.
However, members heard that that plan is likely to be put back on the table later in the year - and the demolition of the former chapel has previously attracted objection from Barrow Parish Council.
The school - whose catchment area includes Whalley, Sabden and Clitheroe - will expand to 210 pupils by the time the first enlarged year group has passed through in seven years’ time.