Concerns raised over £60m sixth form

A £60MILLION sixth form centre which will revolutionise the way post-16 education is run in south Suffolk has been given the all clear.

Russell Claydon

A £60MILLION sixth form centre which will revolutionise the way post-16 education is run in south Suffolk has been given the all clear.

Councillors unanimously backed proposals for the South West Ipswich and South Suffolk (SWISS) Centre yesterday, despite opposition to the plans.

The centre - which will go ahead subject to approval from the Secretary of State - will cater for more than 2,000 youngsters aged 14-19 in and around Ipswich and will be built on land to the south of London Road and Scrivener Drive.

The three storey building will open in September 2010 and replace the existing post-16 education at Chantry High School, Claydon and Thurleston high schools, Westbourne Sports College and Belstead and Thomas Wolsey special schools.

But Pinewood Parish Council feel the current plans for the centre will unfairly penalise residents in the area - who will have to foot a £120,000-a-year parking enforcement scheme on their streets, after planning officers refused to allocate any parking to students at the site as part of their environmental commitments.

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Under the current proposals it is estimated 60% of prospective students will use buses, with a further percentage walking or cycling to cut down on traffic.

But Sandra Peartree, chairman of Pinewood Parish Council, spoke at Suffolk County Council's

development control committee yesterday to voice her fears that 900 extra vehicles during peak times would cause major congestion and possibly accidents.

She said: “The parish council objected to this application in the strongest possible terms because of the severe impact the large amount of traffic movements envisaged and the lack of parking on-site will have on this parish.”

She added the estimates of the number of students travelling by green means was “not realistic” and would leave them with no choice but to clog up the residential streets with their cars.

Cllr Richard Kemp said he was 100% behind the scheme but had concerns about certain areas.

He said: “In local government the polluter normally pays and, in effect, we have created the problem, so why should residents pick up the tab?”

Rae Leighton, the council's chairman of the children, schools and young people's services scrutiny committee, said Ipswich was a deprived educational area and the opportunities for learning were more important than residential concerns.

“This is so important that in some ways we have to accept there will be residents' concerns but the future of our young children is rather more important than the people who live there,” he said.

He added he did feel there was still an obligation to do everything they could to alleviate concerns.

Anne Rickwood, the SWISS programme director, said it was a “once in a lifetime opportunity to offer an iconic learning centre.”

THE SWISS Centre is set to be renamed by pupils in time for its grand opening.

In July the EADT revealed how the name had kicked up a storm in Switzerland when embassy members wrote to Suffolk County Council chiefs to highlight their concerns that the name was being used.

But yesterday the council insisted the centre would be rebranded.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “SWISS is only a working title. During the autumn term we will begin to consider the process of deciding a formal title.

“We want to involve young people in the process and will begin once we have appointed a principal, which should be during the autumn.”