DPP Planning has reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has not impacted on the programme to increase the number of new school places in England and Wales with an increased portfolio of education property projects in its pipeline.
Having obtained planning permission for 23 school schemes in England and Wales in 2019, the national independent planning consultancy has already secured four permissions with a further 17 planning applications in progress in the first half of this year.
These projects are a mixture of replacement primary school blocks through to whole new secondary education facilities. The permissions secured in 2019 will help create more than 10,000 new pupil places with projects aiming to be complete for the start of the 2021 academic year.
The current applications being delivered by DPP in 2020 will create more than 7,000 new pupil places, if permissions are granted, which will be available from the start of the 2022 academic year.
Despite the lockdown restrictions imposed at the end of March as a result of the pandemic, the planning process has continued with DPP working closely with a number of local authorities that have adapted their working practices to ensure applications are not held up by the system avoiding interruption to new and replacement schools programmes.
One of the most recent planning applications consented for DPP is the £23.6m Turing House School in Whitton, South West London. The new secondary school, located in the London Borough of Richmond on Thames, will provide 1,050 new pupil places.
Bob Robinson, Director of DPP, said: “The volume of planning applications is demonstrating that, while schools currently face many operational uncertainties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government remains committed to providing new school places and replacing worn-out or temporary building stock through its Priority Schools Building Programme and the 21st Century Schools Programme in Wales.
“Keeping the planning process going during the pandemic and the new social distancing-led way of working, is instrumental in helping the Department of Education meet the acute demand for new and replacement schools. On the whole local authorities have been adaptable to a remotely delivered planning system, which will be welcomed by schools across England and Wales.”