County Council approves second Beaulieu Park Primary School in Chelmsford

A second new primary school set to take 420 students will be built near Chelmsford after gaining approval from the county council, despite criticism over its box-like design.

Permission for the two-form entry school,  referred to as “Beaulieu Park Primary School II” in planning documents, was granted by Essex County Council in a development and regulation committee meeting on Friday.

It will be built in Remembrance Avenue, Beaulieu Park, and would be part of the Chelmsford Garden Community, a key development including 3,600 new homes and a new railway station.

But some councillors criticised its design, branding it a “box with camouflage” which looks like a “battleship.”

Michael Ward, from planning consultants Strutt & Parker, told the committee: “Many of the homes in Beaulieu are now occupied and with others in the surrounding area also being developed, there is a growing need for additional school places here. The existing Beaulieu school is expected to be at full capacity next year.”

The first Beaulieu Park School received its first intake of pupils in 2018, according to an officer at the meeting.

Councillor Mike Steptoe (Con, Rochford South) said: “It looks to me like a box with camouflage. It reminds me of a battle ship, the way it would be camouflaged. At the end of the day it’s a box with a few triangles painted on it.”

Cllr Dave Harris (Labour, Maypole) questioned whether the design would accommodate for future need and suggested the building could have an extra floor. An officer at the meeting said the applicant is anticipating that the size school will need to increase in the future and that an expansion would be possible, particularly in the east of the site so as to not encroach onto the playing field.

Chelmsford City Council objected to the proposed boundary fencing, describing it as “unacceptable” and asking for it to be reduced from 2.4m to 1.8m in height, according to a council report.

Cllr John Jowers (Con, Mersea and Tiptree) criticised the city council’s objection, arguing security is needed and that people will not be able to see the fence once the planned hedge has been allowed to grow in front of it. Proposing to approve the application, he also said the design of the building is less of a priority than its function.

He said: “This is what function produces for us. We want a good, efficient school. The kids are not going there to do a seven year course in architecture.”

The school site is set to include hard and soft play spaces, playing fields, landscaping, car and cycle parking, according to the report.

Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter