NO sites have been identified for any new primary schools in Chard despite large numbers of new homes being approved.

The Chard Eastern Development Area (CEDA) is expected to deliver up to 2,700 homes between the A358 Tatworth Road and the A30 Crewkerne Road, along with 17 hectares of employment land and two new primary schools.

South Somerset District Council has already approved a number of housing developments within the CEDA – including two sites on Tatworth Road which will deliver a combined total of 294 homes.

Yeovil Express:

But Somerset County Council has admitted it is no closer to securing a site for either new school – and claims that the town will not need a new primary school until 2024 at the earliest.

Chard currently has three primary schools – Avishayes Community Primary School on Fairview Rise, Manor Court Community Primary School on Duck Lane, and Redstart Primary School on Redstart Road.

These three schools feed into the Holyrood Academy secondary school on Zembard Lane, which is currently in the process of being expanded.

The lack of progress with securing any new primary school for Chard was a key reason for the district council’s decision to delay a decision on plans by Persimmon Homes South West for 252 further homes on Tatworth Road on April 20.

Speaking at the time, Councillor Jason Baker (whose Chard Holyrood ward includes Manor Court School) said: “We’ve been failed by the county council’s schools department.

“Yes, there is promise of money for schools from the developers – for which we’re really grateful – but there’s never any plan to build them. The money goes into a pot and that’s where it stays.”

Two development sites on Tatworth within the CEDA were recently granted permission by the council – 200 homes by Kier Living South West (approved in February 2019, currently under construction) and 94 homes immediately to the south by Summerfield Developments (approved in August 2020).

The council also approved plans in February 2020 for a further 437 homes over two sites at the northern end of the town – 295 homes by Mactaggart & Mickel Homes (SW) Ltd. (including a new stadium for Chard Town FC) and 142 homes by Barratt Homes (now christened the ‘Blackdown Heights’ site).

New schools are commissioned by the county council, with their construction being paid for through contributions from housing developers or borrowing through the council’s capital programme.

Yeovil Express: The Chard Eastern Development Area (CEDA), Including Details Of Confirmed Developments And Proposed Route Of The Eastern Relief Road. CREDIT: South Somerset District Council. Free to use for all BBC wire partners.

The council has recently completed a number of projects to deliver new or expanded schools across the county, including:

  • Expanding Bridgwater College Academy (£8M)
  • Expanding Milborne Port Community Primary School (£300,000)
  • The new King Ina Church of England Academy in Somerton (£7.3M)
  • Expanding Bishop Fox’s School in Taunton (£7M)
  • The new Nerrols Primary School in Taunton (£7.3M)
  • The new Hazlebrook Campus at Selworthy School in Taunton (£8.5M)

A spokesman said: “We are working closely with South Somerset District Council to secure a site for primary provision in Chard.

“As part of this, we have requested education contributions from all large scale developments in the area and will continue to do so.

“Plans for any school will be confirmed as soon as a site has been secured.”

The council would not confirm how much money from housing developers had already been set aside for any new school.

It also argued that any new school would not be needed for at least three years, based upon its current projections of pupil numbers.

A spokesman said: “At October 2020, 983 children were on roll in Chard’s three existing primary schools and the net capacity of these schools is 1,049.

“The school population forecasts published in March 2020 indicate that pupil numbers in Chard are not expected to exceed 1,000 until 2024.”

The Persimmon Homes application is expected to come back before the district council’s regulation committee on May 18.