A school has been granted permission to build a “larger” sports hall in place of its current gym facilities.

Emerson Park Academy, in Wych Elm Road, Hornchurch, submitted plans to Havering Council in November 2021 to demolish its existing gym and other buildings and build a new centre in its place.

The proposal, approved on Friday (September 1), provided for an advanced three-court sports hall with multi-purpose teaching room, changing rooms, storage and ancillary accommodation.

A report by a planning officer with the decision stated that these will take the form of a large, detached building between the main school building and existing play spaces.

The new gym building, like the current one, will be located on Metropolitan green belt land and is said to encroach on “previously undeveloped areas” due to its height and scale.

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Schools are not within the list of appropriate uses within the green belt. But a government framework does allow for a replacement of a building with a new one if it is “not materially larger” than the existing building.   

However, the officer noted that improving existing facilities for schools can be supported under special circumstances.

He referred to another rule that requires local planning authorities to consider the need to create, alter or expand schools when determining applications.

He wrote that the new building is big enough to deliver “the full PE curriculum” and provide “correct levels of physical education and sport activities”.

It is believed to “create opportunities to enhance student wellbeing” and “address concerns over mental health and obesity”, he added.

He said: “There would also be opportunity to relieve pressure on other subjects within the school including dance and drama by freeing up dedicated space for their intended uses.

“The addition of the sports hall would also provide greater flexibility during exam periods and reference is made to community use of the building.”

The report further revealed that neighbours were notified of the proposed development, but no objections were received.

The proposal was recommended for approval with some planning conditions attached.

A full list of these can be found on council’s website: https://msp.havering.gov.uk/planning/search-applications#VIEW?RefType=PLANNINGCASE&KeyText=P2200.21