School places in Saxmundham, Benhall and Kelsale ‘reaching saturation point’

Community leaders are calling for investigations into the need for a new primary school in their fast-growing market town.

Hundreds of new homes are being built in Saxmundham but the town’s school is rapidly reaching capacity, and councillors fear that a big influx of new families with young children could mean not enough places.

Suffolk County Council is looking at suggestions for seven new primary schools but there are no proposals for one in Saxmundham.

The council said a lead-in time of three years was needed for a new school to be established – to acquire land, plan and build – and the pace of housing development, even where the principle of building is accepted, is hard to gauge.

Following a meeting with management of the primary school, Saxmundham Town Council has agreed to lobby the county council to encourage it to take a closer look at the town’s future needs.

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Council chairman Roger Plant said: “The school is rapidly reaching capacity and some proper research needs to be done about the demographics of Saxmundham and how it is going to change, and how many children there will be, because the head teacher and governors are very fearful of not being able to cope with a future influx of pupils.

“Even with school places at Benhall and Kelsale schools, we are reaching saturation point.”

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More than 475 new homes are being built in the town – 160 between Rendham Road and the A12, 145 in the first phase of Hopkins Homes’ development of its site on Church Hill with permission agreed last year for a further 170 homes in phase two – with more land expected to come forward.

Mr Plant said: “We really do need as a town council to take more interest in the primary education in our town and we need to lobby the county council and ask them what they are doing about it. We need to be making suggestions and putting our viewpoint.”

He felt that housing developments in other towns and villages nearby could also lead to other schools nearing capacity and Saxmundham receiving applications from families outside the town, too, adding to the pressure for places. Saxmundham families could be forced to seek school places elsewhere if the school was not large enough.

He said: “We must ensure that Saxmundham children are not prevented from going to school in their own backyard.”

Council vice chairman Lyn Jardine said that Saxmundham, Benhall and Kelsale, had 55 spare places currently but only 13 for reception.

The two village schools had both been expanded with new classrooms in 2014. There was a little space for an interior alteration at Saxmundham to create a class and a portable building was to be replaced.

She said: “There is some additional housing requirement for the area but what we cannot cope with is windfall and infill sites which will bring extra housing.

“I personally feel that in our Neighbourhood Plan we need to be looking at where a new primary school could go.”

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