A school has called parents to join its efforts to lobby the district council’s planning department after facing five-year delays for a new building and facilities.

Chigwell Primary Academy on Mandir Lane, Chigwell, had plans to redevelop the school and address urgent health and safety issues since joining academy trust REAch2 in September 2015.

Despite the efforts of REAch2 and the school leadership team, the scheme had been plagued with setbacks before deciding to submit a planning proposal in 2019.

Plans were submitted to the District Council by Coral Properties limited who are funding the school re-development as part of their wider housing development project.

They included a two-storey building, featuring a sports hall, dining room and secure reception playground with infant/ junior play areas.

Other features include nine new classrooms, a separate library with an ICT suite, group meeting rooms and a forestry and habitat zone.

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A concept art design of how Chigwell Primary Academy could look once upgrades are completed

Unfortunately, the week that the planning application was due to be reviewed was once again postponed, causing widespread disappointment by staff and parents alike.

Executive headteacher for Chigwell Primary Academy, Elaine Brook said: “When I arrived at Chigwell Primary, the children had been let down receiving poor quality education in a building not fit for purpose and this had been the case for a number of years.

“We are now a ’Good’ school and provide exciting educational opportunities for our children. However, this is made challenging by a building that is not fit for purpose.

“Staff, parents and children all feel like we have been forgotten by the people with the power to make the changes.

“We have invited the District Council to visit many times to see the quality of the building themselves, but they have yet to do so.

“We hope that sense will prevail and that our collective call for urgent action to resolve this situation will be finally be listened too.”

According to Epping Forest District Council’s website, Natural England has a blanket objection to all planning applications, causing a backlog of several applications.

It reads: “At present the Council is not able to issue planning permission for new development that may adversely affect the integrity of the Epping Forest Special Area of Conservation (EFSAC), which is known as a European site, having regard to the reasons for its designation and the site’s conservation objectives.

“The Council continues to work actively to resolve the current situation that has restricted housing and economic development coming forward since 2018.

“When deciding whether planning permission should be granted, the Council is legally obliged to consult Natural England on all development proposals that are likely, either alone or in combination with other plans and projects.

“The Council cannot ignore advice received from Natural England and, since early 2018, NE has maintained an objection to the Epping Forest District Local Plan (2011-2033).”

In light of the delays, REAch2 has invested approximately £185,000 of funding to address the most pressing concerns at Chigwell Primary Academy.

Chief executive and founder of REAch2, Sir Steve Lancashire, has written to Government Ministers in the Department for Education requesting their support to unblock the delays.

He said: “These protracted delays are completely unacceptable. Elaine Brook and her team have been doing an incredible job to continue providing an exceptional education despite the crumbling building.

“Epping Forest District Council made clear commitments to redevelop Chigwell Primary through Section 106 funding when the school joined the REAch2 family in 2015.

“It’s time the Council made good that promise – our children and families deserve no less.”