By Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Esson
The headteacher of a Ramsgate special needs school has voiced concerns over housing developments disrupting pupils’ learning.
Swathes of building sites have also made children’s bus journeys into Laleham Gap School “systematically worse”, he added.
Les Milton’s school in New Haine Road near Westwood Cross has become increasingly surrounded by major building sites.
They include a site earmarked for 500 homes off New Haine Road, currently in its second phase with 117 houses going up, and a drive-through car wash.
Just a stone’s throw away 23 houses and 15 flats are being built in Stirling Way.
And further afield, 59 new business premises are under construction at the Westwood Industrial Estate off Nash Road, previously gutted by a 25-day long fire.
Mr Milton explained the school currently has “developments on three sides of us” which is reportedly proving a distraction for pupils.
He explained: “Because we are beside a road it is noisy and we are used to air pollution, but it’s the fact that where pupils have been for the last 6 years on this site being used to having privacy and self-regulating, they are now overlooked by big scaffolding structures that change on a daily basis.
“I’m not being at all derogatory towards workmen, but they do have their radios on, they are shouting at each other over the noise to communicate. There are lots of warning signals and warning siren sounds, which obviously big construction vehicles need for health and safety reasons.
“When they have the massive concrete pumps pumping away, they generate a huge amount of noise but also they’re really visually distracting.
“That’s not helpful outside of classrooms for special needs kids who have difficulty with their concentration.”
Thanet District Council’s planning committee met on April 19 to discuss the application from David Wilson Homes – an offshoot brand from housebuilding giant Barratt Developments.
The developers first won approval for the 500-home estate in April 2022.
The bid was split into sections – full permission was given to build 178 homes, of which construction has already started, and outline permission was given for 322 more.
The developers have now received approval for the layout, scale and infrastructure for 117 of the 322 outlined homes, which they describe as “a viable and sustainable development” and says it will lead to a “high-quality living environment”.
But as plans press ahead Mr Milton is becoming concerned for “highly sound sensitive pupils” who “need open air spaces so that they can self-regulate when they are in times of what we call dysregulation.
“Our young autistics need to be able to get outdoors, walk, not be observed, be left alone and to start getting things straight in their own mind about what’s just happened and how they can move on from that situation,” he continued.
And Mr Milton said the school’s minibus, which collects many students, has been delayed by increased traffic in the area due to developments.
“Every morning and every evening their journeys are made systematically worse by the amount of development that’s going on around us,” he said.
“Tarmac lorries, delivery lorries, vehicles on double yellow lines, rubbish.
“Some of the machinery they use for putting tarmac roadworks in the estate is just huge, and that’s left running and parked outside the school the whole time.
“If we had air quality measurements I suspect we’d fail all of them.”
Laleham Gap School’s governing body objected from the start when the 500-home application came before TDC last year.
It argued the development would reduce students’ privacy, overlook school buildings, and lead to increased traffic.
Amy Tamplin attended a meeting of TDC’s planning committee on behalf of the developers to speak in support of the proposals.
She assured members the development “was sensitive to the context, in particular the schools adjacent”.
“Concerns were raised by a councillor and parents of children who attend Laleham Gap School in terms of the resulting loss of privacy and increased noise,” she said.
“We worked proactively alongside the planning officer to ensure this was addressed.”
Ms Tamplin told how plans had been altered to make the buildings nearest to the school two-storey rather than three, saying “This significantly reduces the overlooking and privacy concerns.”
She went on to say that a construction management plan is in place to reduce noise impact on the school and nearby residents.
The application for 117 of the homes attracted four new written objections to the planning committee.
Parent Andy Wood wrote: “Barratt David Wilson have done nothing to mitigate the noise/pollution and traffic during construction, which clearly demonstrates a lack of interest in the wellbeing of the community and residents, and has a direct negative impact on our child and our school.
“The noise and pollution and traffic due to construction is already impacting the pupils’ learning.
“I feel very strongly about these applications, having a child with autism at the school; we chose the school for its remote location.
“There’s not a care in the world for the impact on the school and its pupils and their complex needs.”
The design of the blocks came under fire from councillors at the planning committee meeting.
Cllr Mike Garner (Green), slated the designs, saying “some of these buildings look particularly bland and awful to me.”
Cllr Helen Crittenden (Lab) expressed similar sentiments: “I do despair at the lack of imagination on the architectural design of some of our flats.”
The plans were passed by the planning committee with nine votes in favour, two against and two abstentions.
When will it all end
Well, just after TDC was transformed by the local elections, here is a chance for the new administration to show that it really will do things differently.
The decision to just let all the building carry on as the developers want, regardless of the valid objections of local residents and school staff, happened under the previous lot of councillors.
Just letting the property developers do what they want was fairly typical of the last lot of councillors, a ragbag of Tories,ex Tories, ex UKIP etc.
NOW there is a Labour majority.
NOW,presumably, there will be a Labour majority on the Planning Committee.
So, when a similar issue comes up, we can judge the new administration by its decisions. Will they just shrug and let the building companies do what they want, regardless of all the local inconvenience?
Or will they stand up for local concerns?
What an opportunity to judge whether a potential Labour government in Westminster will make much difference !
Labour agreed this application
Blame Ian livingston
Probably no difference due to the same careless planners in the TDC offices.
There needs to be a change to planning officers who actually know what they are doing and then hold the developers to their obligations. Any breaches in that should be dealt with immediately and firmly.
Why should a special needs school with ASD pupils have to put up with all this disruption outside which is impacting on the children negatively? It is not fair or right. Autism is still not understood by many businesses or Council Planners.
I am sure the reason why Laleham school moved from their old site in Cliftonville to the new site was they needed more modern space that is quiet and protected. Since then they have gradually been encroached upon by all these developments. I feel very sorry for all concerned.
Did the school voice concerns about all this long before construction work started? It fell on deaf ears this stupid council just wants to get their own way -Stupid place to build these houses near a school and on a already busy haine road. STUPID COUNCIL SHAME ON U.
Well, after the local elections last week, its obvious Thanet people don’t want Manston Airport to re-open, especially as it will only be used for dirty old cargo planes! Manston should be allowed to be used to build the 4,000 homes it once had outline planning approval for, so I understand! Folkestone & Hythe District Council have just given planning approval to build 8,000 dwellings on a disused race course, so there is precedent if the basic infrastructure allows it.
There even put houses on the ground of the tower block at staner court manston Rd. There is not going to be any green land left soon. There is so much antisocial behavior happening in and around the block with kids getting in the block and breaking the lifts on a daily basis. The place is so run down can’t even drink the water out the taps. Council think it’s OK to take the only bit of green space these tenants have blood joke
Knowing that the area ,was going to be a mass of housing development,this has been known for many many years,why not to build the scene there,had foreword thinking by the school
Should read ,why build the school there
Because there were open fields all round – once !
If you had driven on that road 5 years ago ,you would have seen ,the slip road entrances, to the new estates,had already put in place, surely ,the school planners ,would have known this fact ,when thinking about where to put a school
Well, considering the plans for Laleham Gap moving there were made in 2013 and was built 2014, that is long before all this latest development was planned or even thought of, long before 5 years ago and no way would it have been envisaged by anyone. But sensible planning is what is needed, not cramming as much as you can get into a small space no matter what. Homes with decent sized gardens, not cheaply built, bland blocks reminiscing to those that were demolished on the Newington estate nearby to make way for modernisation !
The school was located next to what is now named the Royal Harbour Academy, at a distance not to cause distractions. It is greedy landowners and care less council officers under a useless department managed by Iain Livingstone that allowed all this. TDC needs an overhaul of staff but the interim Chief Colin Carmichael has done diddley squat since taking over from Homer. In fact Carmichael had a hand in the selection of Homer as CEO back in 2015 and we know how that played out, so not that reliable really. The facts are all published in the press so public knowledge.
Personally I think the problem starts with planning officers,some incredibly poor decisions from apparent professionals!🤔👀🤐
“Laleham School school”?
Planning at TDC are idiots, all this building at Westwood without improved roads, more Doctors, Dentists, Schools, and not to mention the gridlock of all Westwood is short sited, better to build on the failed airfield at Manston at least vehicles can join on the duel carriageway. Thanet will come to a standstill as things are now and people will use roads never before used to get around and these roads are ill equipped for higher traffic volumes. This lot along with JTB, KCC representatives are utterly clueless.
Of course there is the other story in the IOTN about a proposed new link road.
Which won’t make a lot of difference at the rate new development is passed by TDC. It will be gridlocked as soon as it’s opened.
Now, if a bypass was built around Thanet with links to each town it could work, but there is no common sense or care involved for the future. The planners will be long gone before any comebacks on them.
What has been planned so far which is under that consultation mentioned would be an expensive failure just like the rest of the road structure in Thanet.
Yes i fully agree with you.