TEACHERS and residents fear children could be hurt after Wiltshire Council planners gave the go ahead for a new housing development to share an alley used by dozens of pupils on their way to and from Malmesbury School.
The two houses are due to be built on a plot behind 52 Corn Gastons alongside a pedestrian gate into the school grounds.
Members of the northern area planning committee were split on the application when they met on January 8 and chairman Tony Trotman used his casting vote in favour, to the dismay of town councillors and residents association members who had opposed it.
Afterwards Wiltshire Councillor Simon Killane, who spoke against the plan, said: “I think it is basically a garden grab.
“I wanted the application deferred or rejected so the developer could work with the school and residents to come up with a safe dual access.”
He suggested talks could have been held with the owners of a badly overgrown hedge alongside the alley to see if it could be cut back or replaced to allow room for a new path.
Head Tim Gilson had objected strongly, believing it would represent a “very grave” risk to pupils. He said: “The path has been in constant use for student access to the site for the 12 years that I have been here and decades previously when it was access to the former school on this site.
“There is not sufficient space on the pathway for a car to pass a student and therefore it would be extremely dangerous to a large number of children. The path has never been used for vehicle access.”
The residents’ association was also against the plan and town councillor Kim Power was shocked when it went through.
“I expressly explained that we considered the access to be potentially dangerous for the students,” she told the Standard.
“I am now going to suggest to the Town Council that we invite the applicant to come along for a meeting to talk about this situation. As Cllr. Simon Killane pointed out at the meeting there is an overgrown hedge to one side of the access.
“We are not aware who owns this, but there is potential there for a separate cordoned off path to be made. Surely this should be considered when it is the safety of our children which is at risk?"
In their report, highways accepted the conflict between pedestrians and vehicles, but said previous plans for a single house using the same access had been granted previously.
Officers were also satisfied there was room for vehicles and walkers to pass each other and that the occupiers would be aware of the times when the alley was used.