Plans for a permanent home for Chichester Free School were approved this afternoon (Wednesday, May 25).
The new school will be on site of the Carmelite Convent, in Hunston Road, Hunston, with part of the historic building converted.
Addressing Chichester District Council’s planning committee today, principal Guy Martyn said: “This is a great facility for all of Chichester. There is quite clearly an educational need for a school like ours and by moving it to this site we will restore an iconic location for the whole of the community.”
The committee echoed concerns of Hunston Parish Council, county and parish councillors over traffic, with calls made for a signalised pedestrian crossing on the busy Hunston Road.
Permission was granted, subject to discussions over a legal agreement, which would explore the potential for a crossing and reduced speed limit from 40mph to 30mph.
The approval came despite council officers noting that the plans constituted major development contrary to the development strategy of CDC’s local plan.
In their report to the committee, officers said significant highways works would be needed to provide safe and accessible routes to the school. The plan would also result in ‘moderate adverse landscape and visual impact’.
But weighing against all this they reported was ‘central government support for widening choice in education, the local need for the school, the absence of alternative suitable locations on a permanent basis and opportunities presented by the development to optimise the use of this heritage asset at risk and capitalise on its heritage value for cultural and educational purposes’.
Hunston parish councillors said they fully supported the redevelopment of the convent in principle but had specific concerns over access, footways, pedestrian crossings, speed limits, inadequate parking space and the risk of flooding.