Issue details

20/00045 - Purchase of Land South of Seal Drive in Sevenoaks

To Purchase the land south of Seal Drive in Sevenoaks for use as a playing field extension
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.

·   Background

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.

 

·   Options

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.

 

Forest Schools

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

 

Habitat

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.

Decision type: Non-key

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Division affected: Sevenoaks Town;

Notice of proposed decision first published: 09/04/2020

Anticipated restriction: Part exempt  - View reasons

Decision due: Not before 11th May 2020 by Cabinet Member for Education and Skills

Lead member: Cabinet Member for Education and Skills

Lead director: David Adams

Department: Education & Young People's Services

Contact: Ian Watts, Area Education Officer – North Kent 03000 414302 Email: ian.watts@kent.gov.uk Tel: 03000 414302.

Consultees

No consultation is planned

Financial implications: Capital A study has been carried out which provides an estimate of the cost of acquisition. That amount is commercially sensitive at this time and will be met from the CYPE Basic Need Capital Budget. The amount of the funding required is in an exempt appendix of the accompanying decision report. The site is currently fenced and laid to meadow grass and woodland. It will require some remediation, levelling and forming. Funding for this will be sought though Community Infrastructure Levy, or if this is unsuccessful, it will be included as part of the planned re-development of existing sports facilities on the site, funded from the CYPE Capital Programme. Revenue Funding: The maintenance of the additional sports facilities will be through the schools’ budgets, facilitated by a joint agreement between all parties. Assets The land would be Freehold as an asset to KCC. It is situated on a private residential road in a prime area on the rural fringe of Sevenoaks town.

Legal implications: Contracting for KCC framework building contractors

Equalities implications: An Equal Opportunities assessment has been completed and the proposal has been assessed as offering improved facilities for students with disabilities and for students of faith and no faith. Data Protection implications - None

Decisions