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Legal challenge for Lakenheath school under RAF flightpath

An artist's impression of the new primary school for Lakenheath in Station Road
An artist's impression of the new primary school for Lakenheath in Station Road

A legal challenge has been mounted over a decision to approve a new 420-place primary school beneath an RAF flightpath, claiming there was a “plain failure” to recognise childrens’ welfare.

In October, Suffolk County Council’s development and regulation committee approved the plans for the school off Station Road in Lakenheath, to help meet the demand expected from more than 660 homes set to be built.

But the proposals received strong objections from Lakenheath Parish Council, which cited the location directly beneath the twin track flightpath for the nearby RAF base as being unsuitable.

Last week, the parish council confirmed it had begun proceedings for a judicial review.

Hermione Brown, chairman of the parish council’s planning sub-committee, said: “We are initiating judicial review proceedings to challenge the decision to approve the Station Road new school application because of what we see is the plain failure of the county council’s education team, operating under the director for children and young people, to consider the welfare of young children in deciding to seek planning permission for a pre-school and primary school in this location.

“Noise levels exceed by a wide margin all acceptable noise standard and will affect the welfare of children living in this parish.

“This is, after all, the largest NATO military base in Europe with known future expansion plans when the USA make Lakenheath the home for its stealth jets.

“In deciding to place a new school on the Station Road site Suffolk County Council has failed to carry out its legal duties to have regard to the best interests of children and failed to consider its public sector equality duty.”

The parish council said it fears the learning of youngsters would be regularly disrupted by the jets, particularly with outdoor classes.

A spokesman from the county council said: “We received confirmation of an application from Lakenheath Parish Council for judicial review of its grant of planning approval for a new primary school in Lakenheath.

“We will be responding to this but, at present, we do not know if the challenge will affect the building programme for the new school. It would be very disappointing if it does because it could mean that children from new housing may not have access to a local school.”

The approved plans will see a 210-place primary school and 30-place pre-school delivered in the first phase, with expansion to accommodate up to 420 pupils in a second phase.

Construction had been planned to begin next summer ahead of a September 2020 opening date, but it is not yet known how long the legal review will take or if it will force a change of timetable.

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