Decision due on new building planned for Leicestershire school set to take almost 100 more pupils a year

Iveshead School, Shepshed
-Credit: (Image: Google)

Plans for a new building at a county school which must expand to be able to take a necessary 100 more pupils a year will be decided this week. Iveshead School in Shepshed currently has an “approved admission number” of 150 new pupils each year, but this academic year agreed to take 210.

That number is expected to rise again to 240 in the 2025/26 academic year. Due to new housing being built to the west of Loughborough, where 2,440 new homes are set to be delivered by 2028, there is expected to be a large deficit of pupil places if nothing changes, according to Leicestershire County Council.

However, the current school building only has a capacity for 950 pupils and, in September 2023, there were 943 on roll. The county council, which is the local education authority, submitted a two-phase plan to expand the school at the end of last year.

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Now, the council’s planning committee is set to rule on part of that plan – the creation of a new two storey teaching block. This would include 10 new classrooms, a library, three seminar rooms, a media studies classroom with an audio-visual suite and a post-16 centre, as well as offices, toilets and a staff room.

The new building is expected to be located on part of the playing field. Council officers have recommended that councillors approve the scheme when they meet tomorrow, Thursday, May 30.

The council previously revealed modifications to the current school building are also proposed which would see existing dance studio and changing rooms converted into general teaching classrooms, the computer suites upgraded and a “food service cabin” installed. These changes are not being considered as part of this application.

Concerns have been raised by Shepshed Town Council, county councillor for the area Christine Radford and a handful of local residents about the current entrance to the site. The town council said this already “gets very congested”.

Coun Radford said: “[I] ask that County look at the access to the site as it is at the top of a hill with a narrow entrance into the campus which serves not just this school but others as well.” She added, when children are dropped in the car park behind the school, they currently have to “cross either over wet grass or mud”, or go along the road “which does not have a footpath leaving the children to gain access into the school via a dangerous route”. She asked the council to look at creating a new path for them.

The county council, which is also the local highways authority, said widening the entrance to the school could make the area more dangerous for those walking. Any traffic lights added would also “restrict footway space”, the authority added, and may have the knock-on effect of “deterring walking and cycling”.

Moreover, the new footpath proposed by Coun Radford was deemed “either not possible or not reasonable”. Ultimately, the council said it was “satisfied” the plan would “not have an unacceptable impact on the highway network”.

Concern was also raised by Sports England over the loss of playing fields to make way for the new building. The body has objected to the scheme.

The council agreed the loss of playing fields “should be avoided wherever possible”. It added it had assessed a number of locations for the new building, but all would have resulted in some loss of open space. It said it chose the proposed location, “despite the most significant loss of playing fields”, because it offered “greatest connectivity” with existing teaching areas and meant “ construction works and traffic could be managed without impacting on the pupils’ learning experience”.

In response to Sports England’s concerns, the plan was reworked to bring another, currently “redundant”, grassland area into use as a football pitch. A sports equipment store and changing rooms are also proposed for the down the line, but for financial reasons these can not currently be built.

The council also said it would be happy to enter into a community agreement so local residents can also benefit from the new pitch. With this taken into account, the new teaching block would only result in the loss of 50 square metres of playing field space, the authority added.

Sports England has been consulted on the reworked plan but had not provided a response at the time the meeting documents were published. If the group maintains its objection and the council approves the plan, the authority will have to refer the application to the Government to see if it wants to make its own decision on the scheme.