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Planning inquiry to have final say on Claires Court plans

A public planning inquiry will determine whether Claires Court can develop its site off Cannon Lane to accommodate all three of its schools.

Plans for an all-through school at The Thicket site were refused by all but one councillor at a Maidenhead Area Development Management Panel on August 28.

The independent school confirmed it was appealing the decision in March and notices about the public inquiry were sent out by the Royal Borough last week.

Claires Court Junior Boys is the only school currently at the Thicket site, with Claires Court Senior Boys in Ray Mill Road East, and Claires Court Nursery, Girls and Sixth Form in College Avenue.

The application includes a nursery and junior building, central and senior buildings, a running track, environmental garden and covered multi-use games area.

Claires Court School is appealing the council’s refusal of these proposals, and its refusal of a separate application for a new pavilion building at the same site, to be shared with Maidenhead Hockey Club.

This application includes two new artificial grass hockey pitches, an artificial grass rugby pitch and other recreation grass pitches.

Cllr Phil Haseler (Con, Cox Green) who has led the ‘Cox Green Says No’ campaign, a community group opposed to the plans, says he would like to speak in objection the proposals at the inquiry.

He has already submitted two responses to the appeal accompanied by photographs of the greenbelt and the surrounding highway network during peak hours ‘just to show what the traffic is currently like’.

“In my opinion it would cause severe congestion and harm to the highway network,” he said.

“We know that Cannon Lane gets chock-a-block, it then affects Altwood Road, Farmers Way, Highfield Lane, and queues back to White Waltham for two miles.”

Cllr Haseler says this traffic also ‘clogs up the A4’.

“If we’ve got a school that’s five times larger, how much traffic is that likely to bring in?”

He also said that building further onto the grade II agricultural land surrounding the Junior Boys School would ‘harm the countryside character and create urban sprawl’.

Hugh Wilding, administrative principal, said: “We were naturally disappointed by the Development Management Panel’s decision at the end of last summer not to allow our applications to proceed and we have decided to use our right of appeal. We submitted our appeal in March.

“Reflecting on the COVID-19 epidemic has highlighted even more so the need for schools to be able to coord-inate their response to the challenges they face in the future.

“Whilst we have been effectively providing online schooling and the phased re-opening of schools under Government guidelines, the opportunity to develop a new school, reduce travel between three sites, and create a purpose-built spacious campus for all our pupils, parents and staff needs is very exciting.”

The date for the inquiry has not yet been set.

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