Lack of educational provision in homes plan means parents will have to go further afield, mayor says

The Riversfield site at Little Paxton

The Riversfield site at Little Paxton - Credit: Archant

A controversial plan to build new homes on land on the outskirts of Little Paxton means families will be forced to find school places in nearby villages.

A planning application for the 9.6 hectare site at Riversfield is for 199 homes and the number of properties means it does not meet the threshold for a Section 106 contribution for educational provision.

There has been widespread anger from town and parish councillors who raised concerns about the lack of school places available in Little Paxton, and even St Neots.

The land was originally earmarked for light industrial use and when it came before Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) in October last year, councillors said the plan would result in an “unjustifiable loss of employment land” and refused it.

Little Paxton Parish Council also raised concerns about traffic flow, including the issue of more cars using the A1 slip road out of the village. They also identified the lack of infrastructure, including educational provision, as a concern.

The developers then lodged an appeal and during a highly-charged district council meeting at Pathfinder House in July, councillors Jason Ablewhite and Sarah Conboy announced to the development management committee that they were prepared to defend the appeal.

Then, in a dramatic turn of events, at September’s development management committee, the same councillors voted not to defend the appeal on the grounds that HDC was likely to lose, which would incur costs.

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They said after the meeting that they had been forced to consider a barrister’s opinion about the likelihood of HDC losing the appeal and the costs associated with that. St Neots mayor, Cllr Barry Chapman, has told The Hunts Post, as there is no local authority funding agreement in place, the plan means parents will have to look at other schools and may be forced to go further afield to Buckden, Abbotsley and Great Paxton.

Cllr Chapman said: “St Neots schools are already over-subscribed and this means the plan is to bus children out of the St Neots/Little Paxton area as both HDC and the county council have no other solution.

“The county council would need to build another primary school at a cost of £10m, which it does not have the funds to do.”

The Hunts Post contacted HDC for a response, but the appropriate officer was unavailable for comment before the newspaper’s deadline on Tuesday.