Academy Trust to appeal stalled housing plan

A rendering of the housing style for the proposed Helena Romanes School development

A rendering of the housing style for the proposed Helena Romanes School development - Credit: DAP Architecture Ltd

An academy trust has said it will appeal a council ruling that it cannot demolish its Great Dunmow school and build 200 homes in its place.

Saffron Academy Trust wants to develop the current Helena Romanes School site to fund a new all-through school to the south-west of Great Dunmow.

Uttlesford District Council's planning meeting refused the academy trust's application to build the new homes.

The all-through school was previously given the go-ahead by Essex County Council's Development and Regulation Committee in March 2021.

Saffron Academy Trust's CEO Caroline Derbyshire confirmed the plans will go to appeal.

She said in a statement: "We're hugely disappointed by Uttlesford District Council's decision.

"In our opinion, their decision was based upon discussions that included uncorrected factual inaccuracies and misunderstandings about the project.

"We believe that the council's decision is out of step with public opinion.

Most Read

"There were only 12 objections that were raised and we felt very much like the district council had made up its mind before the planning meeting had even commenced.

"There are many hundreds of people that are in favour of this project but their opinions don’t get heard in such a forum."

Ms Derbyshire added that while the local authority will fund the primary school element of the new all-through unit, the old site would raise the funding needed for the secondary school.

She said: "I think it would be an absolute tragedy for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be missed."

Councillors objected to an increase in homes from 100 to 200 to support the school, a lack of any affordable housing in the plans, and the impact of the homes on eight neighbouring Grade II-listed buildings.

Part of the submission from Great Dunmow Town Council read: “The perception expressed in the Neighbourhood Plan is that the new school would be larger than the existing one, to accommodate the growth of the town, which has not materialised.”

In addition to the lack of affordable housing, a report by council officers said the plans amounted to "harmful urbanisation" of a rural area. The site neighbours eight Grade II listed buildings, including Newton Hall.