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EDUCATION: Public reject plans for two new schools over 'dangerous' access

Thursday 6th December 2018

PUBLIC anger is mounting over the proposed entrance to two new schools planned for the Kent Medical Campus at junction seven of the M20.

The scheme for a primary and special needs school will have the busy and often gridlocked Bearsted Road as its entrance and exit.

The proposal is a joint venture by the Leigh Academies’ Trust, Department for Education and planning consultants.

They claim the KMC site was the only viable option identified and a planning application is expected to be submitted by the end of the month.

Its members staged a consultation exercise this week to take feedback.

Residents are concerned the access is not through the KMC site but the "dangerous" busy Bearsted Road.

The school delegation claimed it had proved impossible to secure access through KMC land as it has different levels of planning consent.

Residents are worried a massive building programme by Liberal Democrat-led Maidstone Borough Council is already putting too much pressure on roads as it is, the latest of which is at the Maidstone Studios.

Now the science college at New Cut Road is set to increase the number of cars even further when it opens.

Bearsted villager Madeleine Schopman said: “I cannot believe they are going to put a school anywhere near Bearsted Road, the traffic is terrible at the best of times. The access point just isn’t going to work."

---The schools – Bearsted Primary Academy and Snowfields Academy - will be run by the Leigh Academies’ Trust (LAT), based in Rochester, which have a total of 23 other schools on its books by January;

 ---When both schools are up and running, there will be 120 SEN pupils and 420 primary students;

---The site is on the Kent Medical Campus site at Pope’s Field immediately beside the low security, 65-bed private mental hospital, which houses some mentally ill criminals and people with borderline personality disorders.

Denis Spooner, borough councillor for Bearsted, said: “It is called the Bearsted Primary Academy but it is not really a Bearsted school, is it? It’s a school serving Grove Green, Vinters Park and north Maidstone.

“I can understand why there are concerns about the site’s connectivity and accessibility to its catchment area. I cannot see why any parent would let their kids walk to school along the Bearsted Road. It is far too dangerous."

A spokesman for Kent Medical Campus said: “The land identified by residents as a possible alternative access point has planning consent for employment and medical use as part of the KMC enterprise zone.”

At a public exhibition held at the Hilton Hotel in Maidstone on December 4, Leigh Academies’ Trust deputy CEO Neil Willis was unable to say he was sure the Bearsted Road entrance would work.

When pressed, he said: “I believe the entrance is in the best location of the site we have been given.”

MP Helen Whately, who fought for the schools to be sited at KMC, said: “My view is that the academy and KCC will need to address concerns about access and try to resolve them.”

When pressed about the public outcry, Mrs Whately stated in a text: "That seems to be the only site. Have the residents who have contacted you suggested somewhere else, that's realistic? And do any of them have children under four?"