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Private school defends boarding house plans saying site is ‘most appropriate’ for development

The award-winning Concord College at Acton Burnell is seeking planning permission for a new boarding house which would include 60 en-suite bedrooms.

But, the school has faced criticism from the local parish council over its choice of location for the site.

Acton Burnell Frodesley Pitchford Ruckley and Langley Parish Council objected to the proposal, and called for the school to submit a revised application.

It concerns centre on the potential for the building, which would be 13 metres high, to be visible from outside the campus, resulting in “a severely negative impact on the natural and historic environment of Acton Burnell”.

But Concord College has responded and said that constraints of the site mean the location is the only one available for the development.

The school has previously said that the proposal is needed to provide ‘a higher standard of living for international boarding students’.

It has enjoyed huge success in recent years, and has been particularly popular with overseas students.

Last year it was the winner of the Independent Schools of the Year award for best International Student Experience.

Ranked as one of the top 125 private schools in the world, Concord College was also named as Independent School of the Year for the West Midlands in The Sunday Times Parent Power Guide 2024.

In a letter to Shropshire Council’s planning department, agents, Lucy White Planning Limited, said the school is faced with a number of constraints which limit the ability to put up new buildings.

They include the Grade II registered Park and Garden, the Acton Burnell Conservation Area, the Grade II* listed Acton Burnell House, the scheduled Castle, and Tithe Barn, elements of which are Grade I listed, and the Grade I listed Church of St Mary.

An artist’s impression of the new boarding house. Picture: Squires and Brown Architects.

The letter states: “The College explored all reasonable options to accommodate new boarding accommodation prior to submission of this planning application.

“To fulfil the College’s requirements, any site would need to be capable of accommodating a 60 bedspaces to standardise the quality of accommodation and the ratio of students to staff for safeguarding and pastoral care purposes.

“Redevelopment of existing boarding houses was explored.

“Proposals to redevelop Elisabeth House to improve the quality of accommodation and provide a net increase in bedspaces will be the subject of a separate planning application shortly.

“However, redevelopment of existing boarding houses alone is unable to deliver the net increase in boarding accommodation required to meet the College’s operational requirements.

“Existing undeveloped sites are limited. The walled garden to the northeast of Elisabeth House is undeveloped, however it performs an important role as open space within the centre of the campus, both in terms of the legibility of the historic landscape and as a social and recreational space for students and staff.

“The site would be too small to accommodate a 60 bed boarding residence.

“Development of the running track to the north of the sports pavilion would likely attract an objection from Sport England due to the loss of the existing sports facility.

“Land south of Elisabeth House was discounted due to the presence of an arboreteum and its amenity and landscape contribution to the registered park and garden and conservation area and the potential to enhance this area through further planting in the future.

“In light of the above the College concluded that the application site represents the most appropriate site for a new boarding house, with limited impact on the significance of heritage assets within the campus, the wider landscape and amenity of the area.”

The agents say the new building can be screened by allowing the hedgerow to grow.

They say: “The landscaping proposals are considered to sufficient to soften and filter views of the boarding house from road users.

“The College is willing to allow the existing hedgerow to grow upwards to provide additional screening and to accept a planning condition requiring submission of a detailed landscape design for approval.”

In its application the college explains that it has been at the Acton Burnell site since 1973 and has grown from 90 students to around 600 at the present day.

The school caters for pupils aged 13 to 18 and has a pupil roll of 582, of which 115 are day pupils and 467 are boarders.

Boarding fees at the school for 2023/24 are £17,800 per term, and £53,400 per annum.

The college, which employs around 320 people, has said that it has a licence from the Department of Education for a pupil roll of up to 630 pupils but has no plans to exceed, or apply to extend, the licence.

A decision on the application will be taken at a later date.