FOUR primary schools in St Ives are to increase their capacity to deal with population growth.

Thorndown Primary School will raise its intake by 50 per cent to 630 pupils and expand its catchment area after NHS Cambridgeshire birth data figures showed that "demand for primary school places is forecast to increase".

Hemingford Grey Primary School will provide an extra 105 places with additional early years and childcare provision, whereas Westfield Junior School will up its intake by 40 and Eastfield Infant School by 30.

Cambridgeshire County Council Education Officer Ian Trafford said the 295 houses built in St Ives between 2001 and 2010, as well as commitments to build 600 homes by 2017 and potentially another 615 by 2021, meant it had to "take appropriate steps to manage the position".

The expansions, which will mean mobile units being replaced with permanent accommodation and see much of Thorndown Primary rebuilt, will cost £19million in total.

"Much of the schools' estates in St Ives dates back to the 1960s and 1970s," Mr Trafford said.

"There are significant condition and suitability issues with a number of the existing school buildings. The most challenging of these are at Thorndown Primary School."

Under the plans purpose-built all-through primary accommodation would be created at Thorndown to replace the former infant and junior school buildings and pre-school mobiles to the tune of £9.5million.

£2.5million has been earmarked for the replacement of pre-school accommodation at Hemingford Grey Primary, whereas £2.3million would be needed to revamp Eastfield Infants and £2m for Westfield Junior.

Another £2.7million would also be used to replace pre-school and St Ives Children's Centre mobile accommodation at Wheatfields Primary School.

"The most urgent need for additional places is at Thorndown and Hemingford Grey primary schools," Mr Trafford said. "The investment in other school sites could be viewed as medium to longer term commitments.

"The St Ives Children's Centre already serves more than 1,400 families and is, as a result, operating under significant pressure.

"Any additional housing development will increase demand on Children's Centre services further, necessitating an expansion of the services currently offered."

He added that Cambridgeshire secured a "sizeable amount" of additional basic need funding following Chancellor George Osbourne's 2011 Autumn Statement, which amounts to nearly £12.5million, whereas £5.5million is likely to come from developer contributions.

Ben Austin, deputy headteacher at Westfield Junior School, said: "Our numbers do fluctuate quite considerably and we have to manage year-by-year. To have the extra capacity will help."