Rising pupil numbers in Hassocks spark plans for school expansion

Catherine Cassidy, Kevin  Carey and Nick Herbert opening the new lift at Hassocks railway station
Catherine Cassidy, Kevin Carey and Nick Herbert opening the new lift at Hassocks railway station

Plans have been submitted to extend and alter Windmills Junior School in Hassocks in the face of the area’s growing population.

But the proposals have prompted fears about congestion in the already busy roads around the Dale Avenue school, and loss of privacy and views of neighbours’ homes.

The Windmills Junior School. Pic Steve Robards SUS-140705-094417001

The Windmills Junior School. Pic Steve Robards SUS-140705-094417001

In a letter to county’s planners, one set of neighbours say they will lose their privacy with new windows looking on to their property at all levels.

And they add: “More vehicle parking is desperately needed as parents and teachers double park in Dale Avenue now and across driveways and on the highway grass verges (some are parked all day).

“There should be spaces allocated in the school grounds for all the staff members plus a few for visiting members.

“The health and safety of pupils, families and residence should be paramount especially for emergency vehicles (they and buses and coaches cannot get through now at certain times).”

Windmills, which was originally built in 1967, now has temporary classrooms to help it cope with today’s pupil numbers, and two forms of entry in each year, with pupil numbers expected to reach 270 in September.

Now architects have designed two new permanent buildings to replace the temporary classrooms and changes to the existing layout to make room for an additional 90 children, taking the site to 360 pupils from 2015 onwards, with 40 staff, and three forms of entry in each year.

The proposals are for a single storey building at the front of the site and a two-storey building at the rear, creating six new classrooms plus other facilities.

A school crossing patrol is being recommended in Dale Avenue to ensure children can cross safely at peak times. Head teacher Eileen Sharpe and the governors have given their blessing to the proposals, according to the architect’s report accompanying the application.

West Sussex County Council also says: “The relocatable units were installed on the site during August 2012 due to the rapid rise in pupils numbers in the Hassocks area.

“The education policy at this time addressed the immediate need to provide places for the increased number of children in the area by the provision of relocatable classrooms until permanent construction could be undertaken.

“West Sussex County Council has a rolling programme to replace with permanent buildings relocatable buildings on school sites and the proposed extension to the school is part of this programme which is prioritised against the County’s Asset Management Plan.

“The extension is therefore required to provide basic needs for the increased numbers of pupils within the catchment area and replace temporary accommodation with a permanent building.”

A public exhibition was held at the school in March with a consensus of support, according to the architects, but with concerns about increased traffic in Dale Avenue.

The residential road already has to accommodate buses going to Downlands Community College and on-street parking is at saturation point, along with a similar situation in other neighbouring roads.

Other worries included loss of views of the South Downs by neighbouring homes in Dale Avenue and concerns about the proposal to move an adventure play area to the more public front of the school site.

But the design company, MH Architects of Chichester, argues: “Fundamentally, it is envisaged that the strengthening of the year groups around significantly enhanced communal learning areas and year hub facilities will have a significantly positive impact on teaching and learning.”