Agenda item

Application DM/2022/00212 - Redevelopment of the existing King Henry VIII Secondary School Site, including construction of Abergavenny 3-19 School (Class D1) incorporating flying-start, nursery, lower school, upper school and 6th form educational provision; provision of open space including hard and soft informal social and play areas, multi-use games area, forest school areas, and sports pitch provision including grass / all-weather pitches; provision of plant building, highways, access, car parking, landscaping, green infrastructure, and drainage works; demolition of existing school buildings/structures; and all associated works. King Henry VIII Comprehensive School, Old Hereford Road, Abergavenny, NP7 6EP


We considered the report of the application and late correspondence which was recommended for approval subject to the conditions outlined in the report.


Mr. P. Hannay, Chair of Abergavenny Transition Town (ATT) had submitted a written statement in respect of the application which was read to the Planning Committee by a Planning Officer, as follows:


‘Should the Committee elect to approve this project today, we would ask for the following firm conditions to be added to this approval.


1.    Active Travel issues


While some adjustments have been made to the original proposals for pedestrian / cyclist and vehicular movement at the eastern entrance as requested by various stakeholders, similar required and necessary adjustments have not been made at the western approach.


Equally, improvements to active travel routes approaching the site from both east and west have not been taken on board as part of this once in a lifetime project. Conditions should be imposed to ensure these improvements are enacted if the proposed initial 30% increase in pupil cycling targets are to be taken seriously.


2.    Zero carbon energy performance


While there is an outline commitment to monitoring energy performance of the new building in the McCann Strategic Energy statement, we would suggest a formal condition should be imposed so that any non-meeting of carbon targets should be corrected and adjusted by the contractor and the consultants at their cost. (It needs saying that material made available to the public to explain how the energy systems would work in the building are very opaque. We hope someone in Monmouthshire County Council has fully vetted all the proposals so that they meet best practice in meeting the Climate Emergency Monmouthshire County Council has signed up to.)


3.    Safeguarding


Several stakeholders have raised serious safe-guarding issues in their informal submissions to this process. They have been inadequately answered. We suggest a condition should be to monitor and record all safeguarding incidents involving pupils in the lower school should be backed up by a commitment of sufficient resources to physically correct these inadequacies, should they occur as we expect they will.


4.    Stakeholder Consultation processes


The Council and its officers in both planning and education will be aware of the considerable disquiet expressed in many public quarters about the conduct of public consultation on this project at every formal stage.


We would ask for a very thorough review within the next 12 months to be held on lessons to be learnt and then implemented for any future project of this scale and public importance. We would also ask that as the Council has no independent client-side architectural advice, that such scale of projects are, as a matter of course, submitted to the Design Commission for Wales’ Design Review panel to plug that very serious gap in project monitoring.’

Mr. P. Sulley, the applicant’s agent, had submitted a written statement in respect of the application which was read to the Planning Committee by a Planning Officer, as follows:


‘As set out in the committee report, the site lies within the settlement boundary of Abergavenny on the site of the existing school and its associated car park and playing fields. The site therefore comprises brownfield land.


The scheme involves the co-location of King Henry VIII School and Deri View Primary School on one site. The existing King Henry VIII School buildings were built in the 1960s/70s and are now tired and not fit for modern educational needs. The scheme will enable the existing Ysgol Gymraeg y Fenni, which has outgrown its current site, to relocate to the Deri View Primary School buildings and site, thus assisting in the continuation and growth in Welsh language primary school education provision in the north of Monmouthshire.


Extensive public engagement with stakeholders has been undertaken, far in excess of the minimum statutory requirements. This has included engagement by Monmouthshire County Council for a 6-week period in May and June 2020 which involved pupils, staff, governors, parents and the wider community and the scheme design was informed by the responses.  Three public exhibitions were held in November 2021 which invited over 600 addresses and stakeholders, including those consulted by the Council in 2020, and again the scheme was revised to take into account comments received as appropriate.


The statutory PAC process was subsequently undertaken, again inviting the over 600 addresses and stakeholders, significantly more than the statutory minimum, and the scheme was again reviewed accordingly. Extensive pre-application discussions have been held with officers throughout the pre-application process and again comments received informed the design. Further, revised plans were submitted as part of the planning application in response to consultee comments received as part of the planning application. The application preparation has therefore been subject to, and informed by, significant engagement with stakeholders for a prolonged period of time and significantly more than the statutory requirements.


The siting and design of the proposed buildings have been informed by the landscape setting within which the site sits, utilising the existing topography maintaining as far as practicable the existing pitches for school use, minimising any visual impact and minimising the need for spoil removal, engineering operations and retaining structures to reduce the impact on the climate and avoid disruption to the wider community during the build phase.


The scheme proposes multiple clear and legible entrances to each school served from clearly defined pedestrian/cycle routes. The ability to drive east/west through the whole site has now been removed, creating a much safer environment for all users. An Active Travel route east west across the site has been included to aid pedestrian and cycle movement, and this is located to the south of the site. Two Toucan controlled crossings are proposed on Old Hereford Road which will further aid and encourage pedestrian and cycle access. A number of off-site Active Travel Measures, including on Pen y Pound and Old Hereford Road, are required to be undertaken by the Council under the Active Travel (Wales) Act which will further enhance pedestrian and cycle connectivity and the application is accompanied by a Travel Plan which will promote and seek modal shift away from journeys by the private car.


The new school building is being designed as a Net Zero Carbon Operational Energy School, which involves all energy used during the operation of the building being off-set by on-site renewable energy technology, achieved using photovoltaic solar panels. Electric vehicle charging infrastructure is being introduced to the site to encourage sustainable travel further in the community. Monitoring of Net Zero Carbon to see whether targets are being met is a condition of the Welsh Government funding so any degradation of equipment or failings in meeting these targets will need to be rectified. The design has adopted a fabric first approach, the building follows key design traits to maximise passive performance and the scheme is below benchmark targets for schools and is on course to pick up the exemplar BREEAM credits for energy. The scheme is providing over 280 new trees, circa 800 linear metres of hedgerow, substantial areas of grassland mix and nearly 1,300 new native mix transplants and whip planting. All of these matters assist in Monmouthshire County Council’s role in seeking to tackle the Climate Emergency.


As set out in the committee report, there are no objections in relation to trees, placemaking, green infrastructure, landscape, ecology, drainage, design, flood risk, heritage, residential amenity, highways or noise from within the Council or external technical consultees, and this scheme will enhance the area and provide the best education for young people in Abergavenny for many years to come.


Members are therefore respectfully requested to approve the application in line with the officer’s recommendation.’


The Development Services Manager responded as follows:


·         Where applicable on site, active travel provision is being facilitated.


·         The east-west link through the site is being provided already as part of the scheme.  Outside of the site a consultant is working with the County Council regarding different options for improved school access for pedestrians and cyclists using Pen y Pound as well as other re-joining routes.  This will be delivered alongside the school re-development.


·         In terms of engagement, extensive consultation had been undertaken via the PAC process and through direct dialogue with the community, pupils and parents.


·         The County Council has highlighted the requirement for the new school to have a net zero carbon operational energy status which is in line with Welsh Government strategy for public buildings.

Having considered the report of the application and the views expressed, the following points were noted:


·         The new school will be a positive addition to Abergavenny.


·         The active travel east – west route will be three metres wide, will have CCTV and will be well lit.  The applicant could consider providing some soft landscaping along this route.


·         The school’s senior management team is content with the safeguarding measures put in place.


·         The importance of robust active travel access was re-iterated with the need to give priority to people travelling via bicycle and on foot and also targets to ensure that traffic is reduced with the new school. However, priority still seems to be for access for personal vehicles with large footprint given over to them.  In response, it was noted that the active travel agenda is being driven with a view to improving those access points on Pen y Pound and Old Hereford Road which is in line with Welsh Government’s Planning Policy Wales.


·         The height of the mesh fences around the sports pitches are a standard height around 4m – 6m in height.


·         The building will be covered in composite cladding in keeping with the net zero carbon agenda. The Council will be seeking to ensure that the cladding complies with current building regulations.


It was proposed by County Councillor J. Butler and seconded by County Councillor M. Powell that application DM/2022/00212 be approved subject to the conditions outlined in the report.


Upon being put to the vote the following votes were recorded:


For approval             -           15

Against approval      -           0

Abstentions               -           0


The proposition was carried.


We resolved that application DM/2022/00212 be approved subject to the conditions outlined in the report.


Supporting documents: