Parking concerns see decision delayed on new Rainham sixth form college

CGI image of the Sixth Form from Wennington Road

CGI image of the sixth form college as it would be viewed from Wennington Road - Credit: Noviun Architects & ISG

The approval for construction of a new sixth form in Rainham has been put on ice until concerns over its traffic impact are addressed. 

Harris Academy Rainham in Lambs Lane South had applied for planning permission to build the new 400-place college where a disused swimming pool stands on its existing secondary school site. 

On Thursday, January 6, Havering’s strategic planning committee voted to defer a decision on the application, for which officers had recommended approval. 

Councillors overwhelmingly supported that there was a demonstrable need for a sixth form college in the south of the borough; according to the officers’ report, the nearest existing college is more than 40 minutes away. 

Rainham and Wennington ward councillor Cllr David Durant said he supported the proposals but there needed to be “improved conditions to mitigate impact on surrounding roads”. 

While proposals would see provision of a new vehicle access from Wennington Road, just two disabled bays and four visitor spaces are included. 

During the pre-application stage, proposed parking spaces were reduced to allow for greater amenity space for pupils and to bring the proposal in line with the London mayor’s transition toward sustainable transport. 

To mitigate the resulting traffic concerns, the applicant had agreed to pay £320,000 for highway improvements in the area and to administer a “robust and effective” travel plan to address parking issues. 

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They also agreed to set aside £20,000 to pay for consultation and implementation of a residential control parking zone (CPZ) within the surrounding area if necessary. 

The council’s parking control team would seek views of residents within a year of the college’s opening, implementing a CPZ scheme if residents agreed. 

Planning officers also noted that many staff would be existing employees of the secondary school, limiting the need for parking, and that, of the existing pupils at the secondary school, only 17 per cent came by car. 

However, a number of councillors were unconvinced by these assurances. 

Cllr Graham Williamson said he was not confident a robust travel plan would be sorted and said he remained “concerned about the residents nearby”. 

He added: “I think it's wrong to force locals to have a CPZ – it’s not their fault.” 

Planning officer Habib Neshat assured councillors that a travel plan was in development and said he did not think a CPZ would be necessary due to the “discipline” of the applicant. 

Cllr Williamson said he would support the application if the college expelled students found parking locally.

Helen Oakerbee, assistant director of planning, said the “limited size of the site” and the “very strong London plan position in terms of little or no car parking” ruled out other options for mitigation. 

She added: “If this is to go anywhere, the only way it goes is within a really robust and detailed travel plan that gives you the confidence that the way in which travel to that site is managed is done in a way that isn't car dependent.” 

Cllr Keith Darvill proposed the decision be deferred until councillors’ concerns had been addressed, which was seconded by Cllr Tim Ryan and carried by the committee. 

Chair Cllr Dilip Patel said the application would be unlikely to be heard again for at least another three months, unless a special meeting is called.  

Officers have been asked to return with details on what would be included in the travel plan, what enforcements the applicant would accept in a legal agreement and potential public transport improvements in the area. 

They were also asked to collect information on the facilities offered in the proposal and how the applicant will meet expected pupil numbers. 

View the plans on the council's website using P1013.21.