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The Sir Isaac Newton free school is taking over the old fire station in Norwich. Principal Mark Evans.
Photo: Bill Smith

Traffic concerns for £5m Norwich free school aiming to welcome up to 440 pupils

Friday, January 18, 2013
7.00 AM

Traffic congestion concerns have been voiced with regards to the £5m proposals to convert a former Norwich fire station into Britain’s first free school dedicated to mathematics and science.

The Sir Isaac Newton Maths and Science Sixth Form Free School hopes to welcome its first intake of up to 220 pupils to the former Bethel Street fire station from September, plus 30 staff members.

The plan is for up to 220 more pupils, aged between 16 and 19, to start in September 2014, along with a further 15 staff members.

A planning application is set to be submitted to Norwich City Council within days.

But councillors yesterday used pre-application talks to raise issues about the potential impact extra traffic to the school could have on city centre roads during rush hour.

They questioned why the school, which aims to be open to pupils from across Norfolk, needed to be based in the city centre. One suggestion was for a location to be sought near to the Norwich Research Park, in Colney Lane, to make the most of the school’s links to science and maths.

Bert Bremner, cabinet member for transportation, said: “We are talking about 45 staff and 400 to 450 pupils. What are the traffic implications? I think you say there are no parking facilities, quite rightly, for the staff and there’s pupils coming into the city centre. How is that to be policed?”

Project architect Chris Gilbert said 50 cycle spaces would be available at the school and a nearby cycle shop is to offer services, including puncture repairs, for free to allow pupils to get to and from the site. He said it was also being emphasised to pupils at enrolment stage that it will be a “no car site”, with public transport recommended.

Mr Gilbert added discussions were still taking place to decide staff car parking arrangements, including potential use of city centre car parks or encouraging them to use park and ride.

Mike Stonard, a planning committee member, said: “I am still not convinced the site is ideal for the school.”

The principal’s office is to be at the base of the former station’s tower while the original weather vane will be retained, according to designs.

The fire station was built in 1934 and is owned by the Lind Trust, a youth-focused charity established by Christian entrepreneur Graham Dacre. It will be leased by the free school.