My letter regarding the proposed expansion of Harborne Primary School

As the Member of Parliament for Birmingham Edgbaston, the proposed annex for Harborne Primary School falls within my constituency.

I am sure that the vast majority of residents agree that we need more primary school places in Harborne. It is also important to recognise and celebrate the tremendous amount of hard work done by teachers and staff at Harborne Primary School, which makes it such an outstanding and in-demand institution for children to learn. I also recognise the previous difficulties which were encountered in attempting to locate the annex at the preferred location of Lordswood Girls School.

It is my opinion however that this application in its current form contains serious flaws, which would cause the development to have a detrimental impact on the local community. This is both my own personal judgement, as well as the view of many of my constituents who have written to me to pass on their concerns.

My primary concern is the impact which the new development will have on an area which is already affected by traffic and parking issues. To quote a constituent who wrote to me on the issue:

“In our small patch of Harborne/Quinton we have Focus, The Low Vision Centre, two gyms (both available outside term time and school hours on the QAC site), Guide Dogs for the Blind National Offices, Queen Alexander College (a college now catering for special needs as well as blind and partially sighted, plus a separate centre to return people to work), Queen Mother Gardens, Onnely House Community Centre, Baskerville Special School, a large dental practice and a large NHS Practice.  We also have Queens Park and the Swimming Baths. QAC boasts of being the largest employer in Harborne!”

This is also exacerbated by the regular rush-hour traffic which passes through the Court Oak Road area, much of which heads to the University of Birmingham and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, two of the biggest employers in the region.

I do not believe that the statement put forward within the submission stating that there will not be an increase in traffic as a result of the annex is accurate. The consultation documents assumes that the children attending the annex, will use the same method to reach school as for the main Harborne Primary site.

Given the incredibly small catchment area for Harborne Primary, many parents walk with their children to school. As the catchment area for the annex will be exactly the same as that for Harborne Primary (around 400 metres from the Harborne Primary school gates), this could potentially create a distance of around two kilometres for children living on the edge of the catchment area.

For busy parents taking children to school at the beginning of the day, perhaps on their way to work or to other engagements, I would say that it is likely they will travel this distance by car, if they have the option to do so. This will invariably create more traffic, congestion and dangerous situations for children crossing roads at the busiest time of the day. I believe that much more serious consideration needs to be given on the impact that this will have upon surrounding streets.

The development in its current form will also increase demand for parking, in an area in which this is already scarce. The document states that there will be twenty-five members of staff on the site of the new annex, with five parking spaces provided for them. This directly contradicts the 3:1 ratio which the report itself states is required for the development.

The report mentions that there is additional space which could be used for parking if required. I believe that given that it is very likely that these spaces will be required by staff, urgent clarification on the availability and accessibility of these spaces would be welcomed.

Finally, I would like to revisit the catchment area of the annex, which as previously stated will be the same as for the current Harborne Primary site. I have had letters from parents who live close to the proposed annex who are frustrated and disappointed, that given the disruption the proposed annex will cause, they will not have the opportunity to send their children to the school. To quote one parent:

“I feel that this is entirely unfair as such a project to build a new school should serve the community around where the school is built. It seems to be a badly thought out scenario that will have us fighting through the traffic of parents driving their children to this school to drive our children to a school further away.”

I would welcome any efforts to reconsider how the proposed catchment area could be reconsidered in order to address these concerns.

In summary, I hope that this consultation period allows for the concerns that I share with my constituents to be addressed. I hope that a solution can be developed which more effectively meets the needs of the local community as a whole.