Date set for decision on Claires Court School's controversial plans

George Roberts

Claires Court applications recommended for refusal

A date has been set for the planning inquiry which will determine whether a private school can build a new complex on greenbelt land.

The inquiry into whether Claires Court School can move its senior boys and girls schools to its junior boys site in The Ridgeway, off Cannon Lane, will begin on Wednesday, November 18.

The plans were refused by councillors on the Maidenhead Development Management in August 2019, but the eight-day inquiry is set to take place after the school appealed the decision.

The school is also appealing the refusal of a separate application, to build a sports pavilion that would be shared with Maidenhead Hockey Club.

A case management conference, which will include the inspector, Joanna Gilbert, and the main parties, will take place on Monday, September 21.

Cllr Phil Haseler (Con, Cox Green) is part of the Cox Green Says No Campaign, which opposed the school’s plans.

With the campaign group named a main party by the planning inspector, Cllr Haseler will be representing Cox Green Says No at the inquiry, where he will be able to cross-examine the other parties.

Speaking to the Advertiser, he said: “I’ve not done anything like this before, it will be up to the inspector how it goes.

“I think it will be good, I’ll have to do quite a lot of background work on what everyone is claiming.”

Although the application was originally rejected on the grounds that it was not suitable development for the greenbelt, Cllr Haseler is hopeful that he will also be able to challenge it in other areas.

He said: “It was ruled out on the greenbelt, but the question is whether that rules out being able to challenge other aspects.

“The traffic issue is one I have a big problem with, I think it should have been refused on those grounds.”

Hugh Wilding, Claires Court School administrative principal, said: “Claires Court is committed to providing the best education and facilities for the benefit of people in local and surrounding areas, which we currently do across our three Maidenhead sites.

“We were naturally disappointed by the Development Management Panel’s decision at the end of summer 2019 not to allow our applications to proceed and we have decided to use our right of appeal. We submitted our appeal in March and we are pleased now that there is a date for the appeal later this year.

"As we look forward to the return of children to schools, and reflecting on the COVID-19 epidemic has highlighted even more so the need for schools to be able to coordinate their response to the challenges they face in the future.

"Whilst we have been effectively providing online schooling and subsequently the phased re-opening of schools under government guidelines, the opportunity to develop a new school, reduce travel between three sites, and create a purpose-built spacious campus for all our pupils, parents and staff needs is very exciting."

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