Decision due on new primary school within West Durrington development

Plans for a new school and nursery in Worthing will be discussed at a meeting next week but they have been met with backlash from local schools.

Proposed view of new primary school
Proposed view of new primary school

The proposed ‘Bluebell Primary School’ would accommodate 420 pupils and a 32 place nursery.

It is set to be a free school run by the New Horizons Academy Trust (NHAT), which also runs other local schools.

The building is being funded by the Department for Education and is expected to open in September 2023.

The L-shaped school would be built to the south of Peony Grove and Thistle Spinney – in the centre of the new ‘West Durrington’ housing development of 700 homes.

An additional 240 homes are now also being built at West Durrington.

Designs show 14 classrooms, play space, a library, parking for 26 cars, playing pitches, and tree planting.

Bluebell School would be accessed via Sunflower Street with two separate pedestrian routes leading to it.

It gained planning permission in principle – also known as outline permission – in 2012 as part of the wider West Durrington development (reference 11/0275/OUT).

The site is around four miles from Worthing’s town centre and plans have caused concern among existing local schools.

The primary catchment area includes: West Durrington; older housing to the north of the Tesco district centre and west of New Road and Adur Avenue; a further area 2 km southwards to Palatine Road; and also eastwards to Roedean Road/Cotswold Road.

School place surplus

According to West Sussex County Council, there are currently 1,363 surplus primary school places and demand has declined in recent years.

WSCC says Bluebell Primary would ‘create further additional surplus capacity’ even into 2025.

Worthing Borough Council received 43 letters in support of the new school and 77 which objected to the plans.

Supporters, including the New West Durrington Residents Association, say that families living in the development had been expecting a new school.

The residents’ association says West Durrington parents are concerned about the ‘extended delay’ to opening.

Other supporters suggest the school will give parents ‘freedom of choice’ and that, despite a current surplus, Bluebell Primary could meet demand from future housing developments.

But objections highlight that school places are no longer needed and point to the fact that permission was granted all the way back in 2012.

Some have called for the school to provide places solely for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Others fear the closure of existing schools if their numbers decrease further, with one teacher saying: “Our schools are already under-subscribed which has a major impact on our funding.

“We are working tirelessly to try and get new children into our classes so that we can provide these children with the resources and learning they need, and having another school within the locality is only going to make this harder.”

Council officers have recommended the plans be approved, with conditions, by WBC’s planning committee on Wednesday (December 15).

Officers say the need for new school places ‘clearly existed’ when outline permission was given and West Durrington residents ‘expect’ a new school.

“As with previous years, school numbers fluctuate and a number of developments planned in the vicinity may well increase school numbers in the future,” said officers.

More details about the plans can be found at the Worthing planning portal using the reference: AWDM/1853/21.