Land bought to expand St Peter’s

St Peter’s School, Budleigh Salterton, could expand after �160,000 was pledged by county bosses this week to buy land adjacent to the premises in Moor Lane.

Moves are under way to buy the site of the old Army Cadets Hut, next to The Venture Hall, from landowners Clinton Devon Estates (CDE).

It follows the MOD closing the hut and not renewing its 99-year lease - the land became available at Christmas.

The site, which covers around 700 square metres, could accommodate several new classrooms.

The money, from the county council’s education capital programme for 2012/2013, was earmarked last week. It forms part of �21million of investment in Devon’s schools over the next year.

The expansion of St Peter’s School is on the cards because of plans to build 110 homes in the town.

A total of 48 homes in Greenway Lane have outline planning permission, while 62 homes, near Hooker Close, were backed by town councillors last week.

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Head teacher Malcolm Elliott said: “An opportunity has arisen and the county council has acted upon it. We would work with the diocese and the council on any changes being made.

“We are not currently full, having a little capacity in most age groups. However, we do have some rather old mobile classrooms that, ideally, should be replaced, while a larger hall would be wonderful.

“If the proposed new houses are built, the present school could be too small. This depends on how many of the new dwellings are for families. We will now have land available to expand should a need arise.”

He said that Exmouth schools were also filling up and parents were increasingly looking to St Peter’s to educate their children, but expansion would only happen if the diocese and other schools agreed.

Mr Elliott added: “St Peter’s sees itself working in partnership with other local schools. It certainly would not be expanding at other schools’ expense.

“It would only happen if there was additional demand for school places within the area and that our school was seen as part of the solution.”

Town councillor and Venture Hall trustee Tom Wright said: “I am fully supportive of the land being used to expand the school.

“The land was up for grabs and the school has snapped it up. It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet the growing needs of the community in the future.

“I believe CDE could probably have got planning permission to build homes on the land, but instead chose to offer it to the school.”

Malcolm Williams, retained land agent for CDE, said: “CDE is not just about building houses; communities need schools and we believe in sustainable communities.”

A county council spokesman said there were ‘no firm building proposals at the moment’.