New £1.9million sixth form for Whitburn school gets green light

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A SCHOOL has been given the go-ahead for a new £1.9million sixth form on the site of existing tennis courts.

Whitburn Church of England Academy, in Rackley Way, was awarded the cash by the Education Funding Agency earlier this year to create the two-storey extension, which will serve up to 280 pupils.

Yesterday, members of South Tyneside Council’s planning committee unanimously voted to give the go-ahead for the complex –which it is hoped will be up and running by September next year.

Approval came despite opposition from some residents in nearby Ash Grove, Markham Avenue, Nicholas Avenue and Oak Avenue.

They fear the development has the potential to create “traffic chaos and gridlock” at school’s drop-off and pick-up points.

But Coun Jeff Milburn, a Conservative representative for Cleadon and East Boldon, and a long-time advocate of the sixth form, described it as a “golden opportunity”.

He said: “Whitburn School is a fantastic school. Three of my children have been there and if the opportunity of a sixth form had been there, they would have stayed on.

“I think it is very important for children to be settled in their education. This will give pupils the continuity they need. We have a golden opportunity here to benefit the people of South Tyneside.”

Coun Sylvia Spraggon, Labour for Whitburn and Marsden, expressed concern over the impact of an additional 280 pupils on roads and residents around the school.

She said: “The roads in Whitburn are so narrow and when there are events such as open days at the school, many people can’t get out of their gates because the cars park so close to the gates.”

Fellow Labour Whitburn and Marsden councillor Peter Boyack said there had been problems with parking in Nicholas Avenue for “years and years”, and suggested a student parking area might help alleviate the problem.

He added: “We’re not against this sixth form. It’s very important for children’s education, but these problems need to be addressed.”

Members were told that the 350 cycle spaces at the school were under-used – and could potentially be used for parking.

The school itself also intends to stagger pupil leaving times in a bid to address parking concerns.