Holbrook Academy expansion gets six-figure sum from housing developers' cash

Holbrook Academy. Picture: JAKE FOXFORD

Funding has been approved for Holbrook Academy to expand by 10 places - Credit: JAKE FOXFORD

Nearly £350,000 of cash from housing developers for infrastructure improvements has been allocated to two projects in Babergh - including an expansion of Holbrook Academy.

Babergh District Council's cabinet agreed to allocate £237,750 towards a reconfiguration of Holbrook Academy, which will expand capacity by another 10 places up to 600 pupils, as well as £109,000 for improvements at Preston St Mary Village Hall.

The cash comes from Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) - financial contributions made by housing developers for necessary upgrades to things such as roads, health centres, schools and community facilities.

Independent cabinet member for planning in Babergh District Council's administration, Clive Arthey said: "It’s great news that this funding will enable Holbrook Academy to provide the extra school places needed to meet identified demand.

“This is the first CIL-funded high school expansion in our district since the levy was introduced, and our significant investment demonstrates our council’s continued commitment to supporting local infrastructure in key areas as we strive for bright and healthy futures for our communities.”

The rest of the total £292,000 cost will come from Suffolk County Council.

The county council said the cash for the school expansion was needed because housing developments of 72 new homes in Stutton and Chelmondiston meant an additional 12 pupils were expected to need schooling there, with Holbrook Academy currently educating 586 pupils in its 590-capacity facility.

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But the proposal has divided opinion. Independent councillor for the Ganges ward and cabinet member for communities, Derek Davis, said many pupils currently at the school were bussed in from areas like Felixstowe.

He added: "What evidence is there, because from what I can see there is no evidence they need to expand? They just want to do it because of higher pupil premium.

"If they didn't keep recruiting from outside the catchment area there wouldn't be any need to expand."

The Holbrook bid was approved by eight votes to two, while the issue last year of Holbrook Sports Centre closing to the public to only be used for schools and community groups was also raised.

The Preston St Mary Village Hall bid, which is to provide indoor toilets and a kitchen, was approved unanimously.

Mr Arthey added: "I am delighted that Preston St Mary has been successful in securing the funding needed for vital improvements to their village hall.

“It is more than just a building, it is the heart of the community where local residents can come together to learn new hobbies or form friendships – the importance of which cannot be underestimated as we begin to emerge from the social isolation caused by Covid-19."