Saxon Hill is a Special Academy for children and young people with physical disabilities and complex medical needs aged between 2 and 19 years.
Over the years the number of pupils at the academy have increased, which has had a major knock-on effect to the car parking facilities at the school. Due to the complex needs of the pupils, this increase has also meant an increase in teachers, support, and medical staff with most of the staff driving to and parking at the school.
As the numbers of vehicles have increased, it had become common for staff and visitors to either double park or park in bus “drop off” bays, both with health and safety implications. The main risk being the potential of double-parked vehicles restricting access to the site during an emergency. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the school’s pupil’s health issues regular access is required for ambulances.
The lack of car parking also had a detrimental affect at drop off and collection times. Lots of the pupils arrive on site in minibuses which all require additional room for wheelchair tail-lifts and ramps. On occasions pupil transport was unable to access all the designated minibus spaces at the beginning or at the end of the day, this would then cause congestion around the site. However, this congestion was not limited to Saxon Hill itself, but traffic would also back up around a large neighbouring high school - which increases the risk of a potential accident happening with high school pupils and staff moving around their site.
Senior leaders from both schools, Staffordshire transport and Staffordshire County Council H&S met regularly to monitor the safety of the beginning and end of day routines. It was decided that the best option would be to look at the possibility of expanding the car park.
Saxon Hill Academy approached Simon Bryan, a project manager for Shaw Education Trust to look at the feasibility of a car park expansion. It was identified that there was a grassed, overgrown area available at the end of the current car park which could be utilised. This grassland was surplus to requirements and was outside the safeguarding line and therefore could not be used for either teaching or by the pupils. Working alongside a Trust framework contractor Dawkes & Co Ltd, a car parking scheme was designed, and drawn up for a 15-space car park expansion. Costs were obtained and a project proposal report submitted to Shaw Education Trust. The Trustee board agreed that the car park expansion met the necessary health and safety criteria so it was agreed that the Trust would fully fund the expansion.
After funding was agreed, the next stage was to obtain planning permission from Lichfield District Council & from the landlord Staffordshire County Council. Approval from the Department for Education (DfE) for a change of use of the land (Section 77) was also needed. Other parties were consulted as part of the planning application such as Tree Heritage and local residents whose properties were located in close proximity to the car park. Planning permission was approved after 12 weeks, and after some additional negotiations with the DfE, all the approvals were finally given, and work could commence.
Due to the car parking issues on site and the H&S risk, it was decided the work could not be delayed until the 6-week summer holiday so the work with some careful planning and site management commenced in the summer term. An alternative short term car parking plan was put in place with the help of the neighbouring high school and a temporary new transport strategy was introduced. Overall, the car park expansion works took two weeks to complete. The work included.
- Excavate 469m2, compacting the surfacing, installing textile membrane.
- Installing MOT hardcore, & tarmacking the surface
- New kerbs
- Installing all drainage, road gullies etc
- New topsoil, landscaping & re-turfing
- Applying road markings for 15 bays
- Car park lighting
Eventually the car park was finished and opened to the staff to use within the summer term. Although there was only enough space for a 15-bay car park expansion, 15 spaces have proved to be enough. Over the last 6 months, double parking is no longer required at the site, bus drop off bays are no longer blocked and there are very few occasions when there are no spare car parking bays. The overall project has been a success, it was delivered by Shaw Education Trust on time and on budget. More importantly it has resolved all the H&S issues around the site and at the neighbouring high school.
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