LANGPORT residents will miss out on £772,000 of funding for their local schools after amended plans for new houses were approved.

Langport LVA LLP put forward plans in April 2021 to deliver the new homes north of the B3153 Somerton Road in Huish Episcopi, on the eastern approach to Langport.

Somerset Council’s planning committee south voted unanimously to back the proposals in December 2023, having received assurances that a substantial number of the properties would be affordable and local residents would be prioritised.

Since this decision was taken, the council’s education team has revised its estimates of how much funding will be needed to ensure local schools can meet the demand created by the new homes.

The same committee voted unanimously in Yeovil on Tuesday afternoon (May 28) to back an amended version of the outline plans, which sees the developer’s contribution to local schools reduced by more than £770,000.

Somerset County Gazette: Revised plans for the homes have been approved.Revised plans for the homes have been approved. (Image: Clifton Emery Design)

The parish of Huish Episcopi largely surrounds its neighbouring parish of Langport – meaning the majority of housing growth associated with the town is actually delivered in Huish Episcopi.

These include the Parrett Gardens estate of 80 homes recently delivered by Persimmon Homes South West on the A372 Wincanton Road, a short distance from the Somerton Road site, and The Orchard estate of 36 properties recently completed by Allison Homes.

There are two main schools within the catchment area of the new development site – Huish Episcopi Primary School, which lies on the A378 North Street, and Huish Episcopi Academy, on the A372 Wincanton Road.

When a local authority requests education contributions from a housing developer, these are calculated on the basis of the cost per pupil to deliver new classroom space for early years (i.e. pre-school or nursery), primary, secondary or provision for those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The council currently estimates that to deliver new classroom space at net zero standards costs £21,188 per primary school pupil, £29,419.50 per secondary school pupil, and £101,215.72 for every SEND child.

The council’s county education officer originally estimated in December 2023 that the development of 100 new homes would create the need for nine new early years places, 32 primary school places, 14 secondary school places and just under one SEND space.

The council originally requested that the developer provide £1,183,007.46 – comprising £678,016 for a new classroom at Huish Episcopi Primary School, £29,419.50 to expand existing facilities at Huish Episcopi Academy, and £93,118.46 for additional SEND provision.

However, following the original decision, the council’s education team concluded that – in light of long-range forecasts for rural schools – there would be sufficient capacity at Huish Episcopi Academy for the foreseeable future.

A spokesman said: “Education contributions will be required for the SEND and primary provision alone, as there is capacity in the early years and secondary sites at this time.”

While the council is still requesting more than £93,000 for SEND provision, it has also reduced the amount of money it will be seeing to expand Huish Episcopi Primary School down to £317,820 in light of the school having enough capacity to need space for 15 new places, rather than 32.

These changes bring the total new contribution to £410,938.46 – a drop of £772,069.

These changes were approved by the planning committee south in Yeovil on Tuesday afternoon (May 28), at a meeting fraught with technical problems after the hearing loop within the Brympton Way main chamber malfunctioned.

Alex Bullock, representing the applicant, advised the committee to approve the plans with all speed, stating: “There has been no change in the material planning considerations.”

Councillor Mike Best (whose Crewkerne division has seen significant changes in its school system in the last few years) said: “I hope that this information is correct, because otherwise there could be serious consequences.”

The committee voted unanimously to approve the changes after less than half an hour’s debate.