Decision Maker: Cabinet Member for Education and Skills
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
Is subject to call in?: Yes
To Purchase the
land south of Seal Drive in Sevenoaks for use as a playing field
To Delegate authority to the Director of Infrastructure, in consultation with the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance, Corporate and Traded Services and the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, to approve necessary development works required to develop the land into usable playing fields and to finalise the terms of and enter into relevant contracts or other legal agreements as required to implement this decision.
The Wildernesse School site was developed in 2016 for a new 4FE Trinity School and for a 3FE satellite expansion for the Weald of Kent Grammar School for girls. In 2017, Trinity school expanded to 6FE. It is proposed that a boy’s grammar school will be co-located at the site as well.
The playing field facilities presently at the site are shared use. While there is sufficient sports provision on site, it requires careful scheduling as the schools need to timetable appropriately to ensure their curriculums are not adversely impacted. This need for collaborative planning will only be exacerbated if the site were to be used by three separate parties. This would mean that sports areas would be in use nearly all the time during the school year.
A timely opportunity arose where land adjacent to the school was offered for sale by the Royal Society for Blind Children. The land measures about 9.4 acres and would support the provision of a further 2 or 3 pitches. Initial feasibility has determined that the existing gradients on the ground are not excessive and the requirement for levelling appears within acceptable parameters.
The land has a contiguous boundary with the playing fields of Trinity School and the satellite expansion of the Weald of Kent Grammar School.
KCC recently completed a consultation on the establishment of a Boys’ Grammar satellite of the Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys. Although the provision of 3FE of boy’s selective places is not dependent on the acquisition of this land and the decision as to whether the provision will be approved is yet to be taken, the purchase and use of this land as playing fields for the existing schools on site would also be of benefit to the additional 3FE selective provision if progressed, and will result in all three provisions having access to a much greater offer for outdoor sports.
There are no options. The potential to acquire this land was an unexpected opportunity.
This needs to be considered as urgently as possible. It is an excellent opportunity to acquire a valuable and useful asset, that will enhance the school sports experience for more than two thousand local school students, as well as the wider local community. If this acquisition is not progressed at pace, the vendor is likely to seek alternative buyers.
· How the proposed decision meets the objectives of ‘Increasing Opportunities, Improving Outcomes: Kent County Council’s Strategic Statement (2015-2020)’
School Sports Facilities
The acquisition of this land greatly enhances the outdoor sports provision for both the Trinity School, the Weald of Kent Grammar School satellite and the provider of 3FE of Boys selective provision, should this be agreed.
Depending on the season and the curriculums of the schools, the grassed areas could be marked for hockey, athletics, rugby or football or several smaller training areas. The additional land would also offer opportunities for cross country running around the perimeter, offering a total running distance of more than 1.5km, across a challenging mix of vegetation, gradients and direction changes.
Other Opportunities for Use
Additional Community Use Facilities
There is quite a demand for sports facilities in Sevenoaks and the schools on the site would work together to make certain areas of the site available for hire by the local community, when and where it is appropriate, i.e. when not in use by the schools. New pitches would result in the existing facilities being not overused. This adds to the potential for out of hours community use.
The abundant, established woodland, particularly in the western edge and the central copse, provide excellent opportunity for Forest School teaching. A Forest School is a specialised learning approach that sits within and complements the wider context of outdoor and woodland education. It has a holistic, sensory and structured approach and is frequently seen as being of special benefit to children with disabilities and those whose learning is challenged in other ways. More information can be found at this website: https://www.forestschoolassociation.org
A feasibility study indicates that the site is a habitat, or potential habitat for many types of flora and fauna. These would be of tremendous interest to the Forest School and as study material for biology and humanities students. KCC and the schools would seek to preserve these habitats and would consider further action to enhance and create new habitats.
Use by Royal Society for Blind Children Approved Sporting Events
The history of Dorton House and the care and teaching of blind and partially sighted children, is one that KCC would like to perpetuate. To this end, the schools on the site would be willing, by prior arrangement, to make available such sports or forest school facilities that might be of use to the RSBC, maybe as part of their Health and Well-being Club programme.
Publication date: 11/05/2020
Date of decision: 11/05/2020
Effective from: 19/05/2020