‘WILL the benefits outweigh any negatives?’ The answer to that question will determine if a £14 million school will be located at a Portland business park.

Yesterday saw the first day of the public inquiry into whether a new campus will be sited at Southwell Business Park and dozens of people packed into the inquiry room at the Heights Hotel to hear the opening summaries.

The Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy (IPACA) is appealing against a decision by Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s planning committee to refuse permission for the development at Maritime House.

Planning inspector Neil Pope opened the inquiry and outlined what would happen. Weymouth and Portland Borough Council, represented by Stephen Morgan will submit their evidence first and call three witnesses. This will be followed by members of the public opposed to the plans.

Then IPACA, represented by Matthew Reed, and six witnesses will be called, followed by supports of the application.

All witnesses will be cross-examined and after both sides have presented their arguments, they will give closing arguments, before the final decision is made later on.

Mr Pope said: “Whether the benefits arising from the use of the site as a principal campus of a community academy outweighs any harmful impact of the scheme.”

He added that ‘particular regard’ would be given to: the effect on the character and appearance of the area, any impact on employment land, implications for highway and safety, the effect on the living conditions of neighbouring residents and the need to focus significant development in locations that are or can be made sustainable.

Speaking on behalf of IPACA, Mr Reed said the case should never have reached the appeal stage.

He said that the campus was a £14million pound investment in the education of Portland’s children and that facilities like the sports hall would be available to the community.

He added: “Far from a loss of employment this scheme provides a real and tangible benefit.”

Mr Morgan said the council recognised the strong support the government gave to the creation and extension of schools and the well meaning intentions of IPACA, but said they had four areas of concern, including the proposed sports hall being outside the development boundary.

The inquiry continues today.


Engineer backs refusal on highway grounds...

TIM Bright, principal engineer at Bellamy Roberts, was the first witness called. He presented a review of the travel plan and said that he was satisfied that the reasons for refusal on highways matters were sound.

He said he believed there could be an increase in the number of trips being taken by students by bus and car rather than walking.

He added the site was situated in an ‘unsustainable location.’ He said it was “outside the reasonable walking distances set out by Dorset County Council for most pupils."

However during cross examination Mr Reed questioned his analysis and highlighted the fact that Mr Bright had been looking at data before Brackenbury and Grove schools closed and so it wasn't a like for like comparison.

Mr Reed said the site was sustainable and added that national planning framework was about looking at location and seeing whether or not it was capable of being made sustainable.