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Borough’s first free school given the go-ahead

13:25 19 February 2016

Artist impression of the Concordia Academy on Union Road, Romford, which REAch2 hopes to open by September.       Credit: Blue Sky Architects

Artist impression of the Concordia Academy on Union Road, Romford, which REAch2 hopes to open by September. Credit: Blue Sky Architects

Archant

The borough’s first free school could be welcoming pupils as soon as September.

More than two years after plans for a free school were announced, planning permission was granted last night for Concordia Academy to be built on the former site of Oldchurch Hospital, Union Road, Romford.

Plans for the free school were delayed last month because of a lack of parking and the Education Funding Agency (EFA) was asked to re-submit their application.

Cllr Graham Williamson (Independent Residents’ Group, South Hornchurch), who sits on the regulatory service committee, said the decision was made “reluctantly” because the committee believe plans still did not provide sufficient parking spaces.

“We are not happy with the lack of parking on site but we are in desperate need of school places,” he told the Recorder.

“Expanding existing schools is often even worse in terms of parking,” he added.

Amendments to the initial plans include an additional five parking spaces for staff – bringing the number of on site parking from eight to 13 spaces.

A 42-metre drop off facility, which can accommodate up to six cars, has also been planned on the southern side of Union Road.

Planning permission was granted under the condition a staff travel plan was put forward to ensure not all teachers would be driving to the school.

Cllr Stephanie Nunn (Residents’ Group, Elm Park), also on the committee, said the parking provision was “not as nearly enough” but the committee did not have a choice.

“There are about 1,000 dwellings in the area and it is hoped that most people will walk to school,” she added.

The plan is for the existing building to be demolished and replaced by a four-storey primary school taking 90 pupils in its first year, which is due to open in September and will be run by REAch2 Schools.

A spokeswoman for REAch2 said: “It is good news for local families that planning has been granted to the Concordia Academy.

“There is a clear need for additional school places locally and we look forward to working with the local community to develop and then open an academy that will offer exceptional opportunities for learning.”

By 2020, the three-form entry school should reach its full capacity and cater for 630 children aged between four and 11.

The proposal was initially presented to Mayor of London Boris Johnson, who was in favour of the plans.

What do you think about free schools? Get in touch at chloe.farand@archant.co.uk.

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