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Pickles approves Bedford Free School

Secretary of State Eric Pickles has given green light to Bedford and Kempston Free School after Bedford Borough Council had refused to grant permission on grounds of the effects of the additional traffic the school would generate. 30 Nov 2012

Pickles said in his decision letter (28-page / 298KB PDF) that that the generation of traffic dropping-off and picking-up on the one way gyratory system was not in conflict with the Bedford Borough Local Plan, nor with the National Planning Policy Framework.

The proposed use would not result in a "significant generation of pick-up and drop-off activity" and thus would not "adversely affect the free flow of traffic on a primary route into the Town Centre or be detrimental to highway safety", Pickles said.

Pickles said that some Travel Plan systems were already in place and that he considered these to have been effective for the users of the Free School. He said those measures would be enhanced by proposed traffic enforcement measures to be carried out by the Council and that therefore the proposed use could have an overall positive effect on the gyratory system.

The Council had refused to grant permission to the school in June. Despite that decision, the school was opened in September. The Council subsequently issued an enforcement notice to the school, which would have come into force had Pickles not decided to allow the appeal.

"There were legitimate questions to be asked about the effect of the school on local traffic but changes in College activity meant there are now fewer people moving across Cauldwell Street," said Bedford Free School governors chair Ian Pryce.

“Our advice has been clear throughout that planning consent would be achieved.  While we accept the Borough’s planning decision stemmed from genuine concern by members, it is a shame that it lengthened the process, and unsettled parents and pupils at an important time."