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Fears for children’s health with new Waterbeach primary school set to be built next to A10





Concerns have been raised about a proposal to build a primary school for Waterbeach New Town within metres of the A10 and the effect that the traffic fumes will have on pupils’ health.

Deneia Primary Academy will be the first primary school at the 5,000-plus home development of the former barracks site in Waterbeach and is set to be built just 67 metres from the road

How Waterbeach New Town could look. Picture: Urban & Civic
How Waterbeach New Town could look. Picture: Urban & Civic

Cambridgeshire County Council has applied to build the 630-place, three-form entry academy, which will have eco credentials including being a nearly net zero energy building. It says that the school site was chosen for easy access by cycling and walking.

But the public health team at the county has raised a holding objection to the application. It says the Rapid Health Impact Assessment (HIA) submitted for the school “has failed to adequately assess the potential impacts on human health”.

It adds that the HIA has not provided “an assessment of potential impacts during both construction and operational phases particularly relating to air quality and potential impacts on children and vulnerable children”.

Waterbeach resident Jude Sutton has spoken of her worries for the health of children who will attend the school and warned of future lawsuits.

She said: “The decision to locate the school adjacent to a very busy, soon-to-be-dualled A-road is fundamentally flawed and frankly dangerous to human health. This proposed development is being planned in the wrong place.

“At outline planning stage there were and still are, multiple other location options for the primary school on this 716-acre ex-MOD site.

“I strongly recommend the primary school siting be remodelled urgently to avoid major construction and litigation perils later on. It is recommended that schools should not be built within 500ft/235m of a busy roadway; this is high risk air pollution zone and some research shows the risk zone to be 900-1,000m.

“It would be unethical and legally contestable to continue to follow flawed outline planning decisions and persue this site for the building of a primary school.”

Waterbeach Parish Council has also raised concerns about air quality and smells at the site.

Waterbeach Barracks development - key phase one. Picture: Urban & Civic
Waterbeach Barracks development - key phase one. Picture: Urban & Civic

The county council explained that cycling and walking access to the school was a major consideration at outline planning permission stage.

A spokesperson said: “Four locations were considered by the developer, with input from the county council, South Cambridgeshire District Council and other key stakeholders. The preferred location was chosen because it was close to homes but not on the main road, thus encouraging children to walk and cycle to school and creating a car-free environment. It also connects the school to woodland walks, play areas and cycle routes.”

The spokesperson added: “The location of the school was discussed at length during both the outline planning process, with education officers from the county council expressing concerns about its proximity to the A10 with the developer. This led to additional testing and modelling, resulting in the developer agreeing to include acoustic fencing around the school, which became a condition of planning.

“To ensure future air quality at the site, landscaping along the boundary of the school and the A10 was recommended, together with the maximum distance possible between the road and the school buildings and play areas.”

Developer Urban&Civic, which owns the Waterbeach barracks site and gained outline planning permission for the school, said: “We discussed a number of potential locations for the first primary school of the development, reviewing them against a range of factors with local authority and other partners, with this location being put forward as the strongest and confirmed through planning consents in 2019. It will create an amazing place to learn.

“The location is closest to most homes coming forward in the first phase and is situated so pupils will not need to cross major roads to get there; indeed it has been planned around a car free area with walk, scoot and cycle routes through woodland areas and play spaces – already put into place as part of the roll out of the development.

“Whilst the location is closer to the A10 than some of the other locations looked at, this does not have a negative impact on the air quality. We undertook significant testing of levels at a range of times and dates and included modelling the highest impact scenarios of how traffic on the A10 might change over time. Tests show the air quality levels and presence of pollutants are the same across the development area and all are safely within UK and World Health Organization levels and would be also be well within the guidance with any future changes to the A10. We have committed to air quality monitoring at key locations within the development and around the school to ensure that this continues to be the case.”



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