Fresh talks on future of old Lafford school

The Billinghay campaigners who attended last Tuesday's planning committee meeting. From left - Kylie Cozens, Sharon Rossides, Claire Markham, Kelly Greig, Kathryn Locke (parish councillor) and Carol Willingham (Parish Clerk) . EMN-171002-170135001
The Billinghay campaigners who attended last Tuesday's planning committee meeting. From left - Kylie Cozens, Sharon Rossides, Claire Markham, Kelly Greig, Kathryn Locke (parish councillor) and Carol Willingham (Parish Clerk) . EMN-171002-170135001

A decision on plans to develop a former secondary school site has been delayed to allow for further talks between interested parties.

The outline application for planning permission by Lincolnshire County Council had proposed redevelopment of part of the former Lafford School site in Fen Road, Billinghay, which closed in 2010.

This would include building 16 homes on the site of the demolished school, a play area, eight parking spaces and a ‘drop off’ area for use of the neighbouring primary school, swimming pool and children’s centre.

The current design would take up 15 per cent of the old school playing field, the remainder of the field being earmarked for recreational land to be handed to the parish council.

However, residents’ groups, including the parish council, creators of the Billinghay Neighbourhood Plan, and Billinghay Community Group, have argued more of the site should be given up to community use due to its central location. This would include allowance to expand the primary school (due to reach capacity in 2018-19) and doctor’s surgery in response to 560 new homes expected to be built in the village allocated for sites in the new Central Lincolnshire Local Plan.

Sport England also came out in opposition, claiming the scale of development would lead to loss of too much recreational land for the village.

At last Tuesday’s planning committee, Coun Kathryn Locke, vice-chairman of Billinghay Parish Council and chairman of Billinghay Neighbourhood Plan committee, outlined the work on the neighbourhood plan and their hopes for the site.

The committee opted to defer their decision to allow Lincolnshire County Council and Billinghay Parish Council to have further discussions about the site’s future.

Coun Locke said after the meeting they were delighted, adding: “This provides us with an opportunity to continue our liaison with Lincolnshire County Council and to find a way forward for community use on this site.”

Robbie Bonner, asset manager at the county council, said: “Before we submitted the planning application, we talked to local people to find out what their aspirations are for the site and to discuss the options.

“From these discussions, we proposed that the original playing field remained and was available to the local community. However, we are happy to continue our discussions with the parish council to make sure that the needs of people in the area are met.”

Claire Markham, chairman of Billinghay Community Group, said: “This is exactly the outcome we were hoping for. There were some comments that the Neighbourhood Plan is not far enough down the line to be taken into consideration, but we argued the facts in the plan will not change after the referendum on it in June. It was felt that the two sides should work it through rather than waste two-and-a-half years of work.”

She said: “The site is so central to the village. It is the only opportunity for the village to develop its facilities when it is growing. There is nothing personal against the county council.”

Mrs Markham added: “We could come to an arrangement attractive to both parties. If there can be a reduced number of properties then I am sure we could meet somewhere in the middle. We have never objected to the other 560 houses going into the village, but we want a balance.”