Please read the information below before commenting on Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council’s planning portal.
Following the virtual public exhibition earlier this year about the development proposals for Fosse Bank School and Stables Nursery, we can now update you on our plans. These represent a singular opportunity to transform the fortunes and future viability of our much-loved school and nursery.
Our proposals would secure a crucial investment in the School’s listed building. They would also create much needed new contemporary teaching facilities, which will ameliorate the learning environment for our pupils and teachers, and create a valuable space for the wider use for the Hildenborough community.
The refurbishment and redevelopment of Fosse Bank School will only be possible through enabling development by securing planning consent for 76 new homes (rather than the 90 originally proposed).
Our proposals would secure a multi-million pound investment in the site, and:
- enable the opportunity to increase the school roll from 120 pupils to 240 pupils, which would sustain the future of Fosse Bank School,
- develop a new eco-classroom block, plus multi-purpose hall (MPH) for arts, music rooms, sport and full school events,
- improve disability access to the school,
- refurbish the Grade II listed building that is in urgent need of repair, including the swimming pool,
- enable the school to offer its facilities to the wider community, including the two local primary schools.
The proposals will secure high-quality local independent education for children aged two to 11 years old, with the neighbouring Stables Nursery offering childcare for those aged three months to five years old, and retaining the forest school.
Delivering for parents and pupils
The redevelopment would enable Fosse Bank to become a double form entry school with new early years facilities.
In addition, Stables Nursery, recently shortlisted in the Nursery World Awards 2021, would also be able to increase its capacity, satisfying the parents with children on its waiting list for local early years childcare. The school, together with Stables Nursery, will be able to provide wraparound care between 07.30-18.00, Monday to Friday, for 50 weeks a year, which is much needed by working parents, many of whom commute to London.
Prior to Covid, a third of the whole school attended the school during school holidays, in classes run by the school staff.
Operating a school in a Grade II listed building is both a help and a hinderance. It’s a place conducive to inspiring young people, however, the age of the main school building means that maintenance is a significant financial and operational burden. The proposals will tackle this issue and ensure the long-term sustainability of the school here in Hildenborough and this locally important listed building.
The project will also ensure the retention of Fosse Bank’s forest school for pupils up to 11 years old, which has proved popular with families.
Improving educational facilities
The proposed investment would:
- Create a new eco-classroom block – rather than an extension to the existing school buildings – will improve the efficiency of the school’s operation by reducing the overall running costs.
- Address the current issues identified by the Governors, including the lack of a suitable hall to enable whole school assemblies, host dramatic arts and physical education.
- Ensure the school is Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) compliant, specifically with accessible facilities for the swimming pool and provision of new ground floor changing rooms with dedicated family changing.
- The relocation of the hard-court play area and forest trail, nearer to the school, will improve the efficiency of teaching, enabling greater physical activity.
- Pupils currently undertake their sports lessons in a former agricultural building some distance from the main school building, rather than a purpose-built hall in a better and safer location closer to the main school. The Governors are seeking to provide a multi-purpose hall for sports, which will also be used for arts teaching and whole school events.
Safety remains our upmost priority. As part of the proposed development programme, the school would put a construction management plan in place to ensure the safety of all our students, parents and staff.
The current inbound and outbound routes for school and nursery-related car based access will be unchanged.
We are also proposing to fund a traffic calming scheme on Noble Tree Road in order to further enhance road safety and reduce speeds.
It is also important to note that the school will be separated from the proposed residential development by a new road which would be for residents and their visitors only.
A two-way new access to Noble Tree Road, between the existing road entrance to Stables Nursery and road exit from the school is proposed.
Learning remains our priority
To keep disruption to a minimum during the school day we are working closely with our proposed construction company which is a highly-respected local firm with an extensive experience in building new school facilities to prepare a phased programme of construction. It is envisaged that the proposals will be phased over a period of time thereby allowing a continuity of operation for the school.
Enabling development to happen
The refurbishment and redevelopment of the school would be made possible through the development of 76 new homes on 2.88 hectares of the school’s surplus land, following an agreement entered into by the school with Patramus, the parent-led trust and owner of the site.
Negotiations are under way with a number of housebuilders who already operate in the borough and have an excellent reputation for delivering quality new homes.
After discussions with the council’s planning officers, the school has reduced the proposed number of new homes from 90 to 76, of which 20% would be provided as affordable homes.
The housing development will represent a high quality relatively low-density development in a visually sensitively location away from the school and Stables Nursery. The development will be accessed independently from the school to ensure that the safety and security of the children on site are not prejudiced in anyway. The visually contained location for the residential development will also ensure that it does not impact the wider locality.
Building new homes in the Green Belt
Although the site is identified as Green Belt, the school’s governors believe the proposals meet the planning requirement for very special circumstances by securing the ongoing operation of Fosse Bank School and enhancing Stables Nursery and preserving and enhancing a listed building.
Our earlier plans for a much larger care village on the site were not found to be viable, due to the current economic pressures on the care sector. The care village wouldn’t have made a contribution to much needed affordable housing, a priority within Tonbridge and Malling.
Demonstrating ‘very special circumstances’ and public benefits
With the proposed development sitting in the Green Belt, and close to a listed building, the school is required to demonstrate that it meets the highest possible standards in terms of its benefits.
Our proposals support national planning policy, by:
- Creating, expanding or altering schools through planning decisions in order to ensure sufficient choice. The doubling of pupil numbers at Fosse Bank will ensure there is sufficient choice of school places to meet the need of existing and new communities.
- Ensuring the long-term stability and future of the school, and importantly supporting local community groups through access to our improved facilities.
- Delivering the funding for essential repairs to be made to the Listed Building, which is an important heritage ‘public benefit’.
- Enhancing the heritage, including landscape works to enhance the immediate setting of the Listed Building.
- Supporting the development of surplus school land
- Enhancing educational facilities, which will benefit the experience and prospects of younger children and meet a shortfall in early years and childcare places in the borough.
- Improving community access to facilities, opening up the new and improved facilities for wider public use.
The Governors believe that, cumulatively, these benefits demonstrate that very special circumstances and public benefits do arise through our proposals and support the case for development in the Green Belt and affecting a listed building.
Enhancing the borough’s educational community
With the state sector under considerable financial pressure, Fosse Bank has made a commitment as part of these proposals to provide access to its new facilities to local schools, including Stocks Green Primary School and Hildenborough Church of England School, as well as local community groups.
The proposals will provide additional early years and childcare places for the borough, which has a shortfall of early years provision, with little capacity in the system to offer enhanced parental choice.
Supporting the Council’s overall housing, as well as affordable housing, targets
The Government has tasked each council with increasing the rate of new homes being built across the country. The Council has only a 2.93-year supply of land required to meet its housing building target, significantly short of the minimum five-year housing land supply demanded by planning policy.
The housing land shortfall is therefore considerable and with little prospect of addressing it given the withdrawal of the emerging Local Plan from the Examination process which would have determined where houses would have been built across the Borough between now and 2031. Given the Council’s existing housing land supply shortfall, let alone the issues with planning for its future supply, our proposals would support the delivery of new market and affordable homes, and therefore support the Council’s efforts to reach its target.
Safeguarding and creating local employment
By sustaining the future of Fosse Bank School, and supporting the expansion of Stable’s Nursery, our proposals will safeguard the jobs of the 35 teachers and support staff, as well as creating jobs for 25 additional staff at the School, plus a further 10 staff at the Stables Nursery.
Our planning application has been submitted to Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council – and is now in the public domain – and we hope will be considered at a planning committee next year.
To view our application click here: Fosse Bank planning application
We hope we can call upon you for your support in securing the future for Fosse Bank School.