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Ashgrove Site, Yarm School

 

Dear Matt,

I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing following the commencement of the School’s project to develop the Preparatory School on Grammar School Lane, the initial stage of which is the construction of a car park on adjacent land (‘Ashgrove’) that the School has owned for many years. The first stage of this construction involves the removal of some trees on the site and this has, understandably, caused some adverse local reaction from residents and members of the public who are surprised at the sudden change. We have received questions and comments about the ecological impact and also about public use of the car park in future, and we do sympathise with the response and with some of the concerns being raised.

I wanted, therefore, to briefly appraise you of the history of this application and, I hope, to reassure you on a number of points. Of course, you would be welcome to visit the site at any time, Covid restrictions permitting.

The development of this site has been through a number of different iterations, including previous schemes to rebuild the Prep School itself on the site. When the School decided that this was not a viable plan, a 137 space car park with provision for three coaches on the site, was planned for a variety of reasons. These include helping to reduce the number of cars and coaches stopping and parking on the Spital, the enhancement of safety for parents and pupils, reduction of congestion on the Senior School site (which, in turn, should help to reduce the impact of queuing on the Spital at peak times) and a reduction in car parking within the local area.

From the outset, we have engaged with Stockton Borough Council (SBC) to try and offer a joint venture that might improve the parking situation in Yarm, including consideration of the town’s shared use of the Ashgrove site adjacent to the Prep School. Despite detailed initial planning with SBC on this, the project was not taken forward by SBC as they had other solutions in place to alleviate parking in Yarm. As you know, we take our role in the local community seriously in all manner of ways, from the cultural impact of the Princess Alexandra Auditorium to our links with local primary schools, community projects involving our pupils and significant fundraising for local charities, among other activities. In terms of parking, we are currently offering use of our Senior School car park to the Yarm Medical Practice to facilitate their Flu and Covid-19 vaccination programme which has seen many members of the public using our site to access their vaccinations. Whilst the new car park will be needed by the School during term time, particularly during the week, we would certainly consider similar requests from the local council or community for its use for town events and so on.

In terms of the environmental impact of the current developments, we have worked closely to meet all of the exacting standards laid down by the Council in terms of ecological surveys, tree management, replanting schemes and so on. Indeed, the Council’s Arborist visited the site last week to oversee the ongoing work and has confirmed that a number of the trees being removed were indeed diseased or ‘of little value’ from an arboricultural point of view. Having removed 49 trees on the site, along with some low level vegetation and scrub, we have designed a comprehensive replanting scheme including 54 new ‘specimen, heavy standard’ trees which are a minimum height of 4.5m and 105 native trees as ‘whips’ – a ratio of three new trees for each one removed. Further, we are planting a wildflower meadow, native shrubs, hedging and ornamental planting to enhance the site and to reduce the impact of any noise on our neighbours. The entrance to the car park was originally planned to be further North on the Spital (nearer the School and town) but the Council’s Highways Team rejected that proposal, hence the need to open the site at the current location, which has caused some of the concerns we have received.

Ultimately, I understand why people may feel upset at the changes they see. However, I wanted to reassure you that we have engaged proactively with the Council on the use of the site and the environmental impact since the inception of these plans, and have striven to meet every expectation of the SBC planning officers and other specialists.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you further, should you have time to do so, as I understand that this is an important local issue.

With very best wishes

Huw

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