New West Durrington primary school and nursery are approved

A new Worthing school nearly ten years in the making was approved at a planning meeting on Wednesday (December 15).

Proposed view of the school
Proposed view of the school

Half of Worthing Borough Council’s planning committee wanted to defer the decision on the new ‘Bluebell Primary’ in the centre of the West Durrington housing development. But committee chair Noel Atkins (Con, Salvington) used his casting vote and the plans were approved.

When outline permission was given for the 700 home development in 2012, a school was included in the legal agreement between developers and the council.

It will provide 420 places and a nursery with space for 32 children.

But the plans caused concern among local schools who say that they are under-subscribed as it is and the school is ‘not needed’ nearly ten years on.

Figures from West Sussex County Council suggest that there are currently 1,363 surplus primary school places and, although 43 letters of support were received for the plans, 77 objected.

Council planning officers said this had created a ‘unique situation’ with so many objections to a new school.

Pressure on existing schools 

Carl Walker (Lab, Selden) has served as a school governor and is one of those who objected to Bluebell Primary.

“Being under capacity already has a huge financial impact as schools are funded per pupil place,” he said.

“For some schools this may result in redundancies and class closures or schools will become non viable with deficit budgets.”

Mr Walker estimates that schools closest to the development have 400 spaces between them.

One chair of governors said there are ‘two schools within a 20 minute walk’ and called for a purpose built special school instead. 

But Terry Woodjetts, chairman of the New West Durrington Residents Association, said people had moved in under the impression a new school would be built. 

He added that the opening had already been delayed by several years.

Lee Murley, CEO of the New Horizons Academy Trust which would run the school, said the Bluebell Primary would provide places ‘for multiple generations to come’.

“In a day and age where we’re all encouraged to think sustainably about the way we travel, it is vital that as these new communities grow families are able to access good local schools without the need for a car journey,” he added.

This view was shared by Worthing mayor Lionel Harman (Con, Castle).

“There’s a lot of young families moving into this area,” he said. “If we don’t build the schools now, those classroom spaces will not be available when those children need them.”

Mr Harman added that a 20 minute walk from West Durrington to local schools was a conservative estimate and parents may be tempted to drive.

Jim Deen (Lab, Central) suggested deferring the decision for three months to allow residents, schools, the developer and the Department for Education to discuss the plans further.

But this was not supported and an agent for the development said this could ‘kill any opportunity to open the school in September 2023′.

More details on the new school can be found at the Worthing planning portal using reference: AWDM/1853/21.