A SCHOOL expansion branded 'disgusting' and 'reprehensible' by outraged villagers is set for approval.

Oxfordshire County Council is due to permit its own planning application to build a new teaching block at Benson CE Primary School, despite disapproval from two other councils and residents.

It has proposed building the block on part of the Benson school's playing field, to house three new classrooms, toilets, a plant room and storage areas.

The plans have been recommended for approval at a council meeting on Monday, having been deferred in December by its planning committee.

During planning consultation, a comment lodged by Marie Finch and Vincent Jenkins said: “We utterly object to this disgusting school expansion.

“We are big supporters of Benson Primary and understand more school places will be needed with new housing estates being built, but this proposal clearly is not thought through.”

The council hopes to build the new facility by September, to meet a predicted rise in demand as the village is set for 763 new homes.

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Villager John Phillingham also submitted a strong-worded objection, which said: “[This] represents the further decimation of an open green space, playing field and community asset that has been used by both the school and the general population of Benson for decades.

“OCC are playing at planning catch-up and doing it in a reprehensible way.”

The site is partially owned by the Oxford Diocesan Board of Finance and partly by the Trustees of The Benson School Playing Field.

South Oxfordshire District Council and Benson Parish Council also lodged objections, raising concerns about the scale of development given its proximity within a conservation area.

In December the county council’s planning regulation committee deferred the application, asking for more investigation into alternative schemes for expansion, location and design.

But a new report compiled by the council’s director for planning and place said: “In my view the design and materials are consistent with the school setting and the construction would be sustainable.

“It is unfortunate that it was not possible to locate the additional classrooms closer to the existing school building.

“However, the school site would still have open grassed areas at its western end and so although the area of open space would be reduced, a substantial proportion of it would be retained.”

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Noting the expected population growth, the officer added: “The impact on the character and appearance of the conservation area has to be weighed against the strong national policy support for the expansion of schools.”

Benson and Crowmarsh district councillor Sue Cooper also objected during consultation, stating a new school would be more appropriate.

David Cooper, also responding to consultation, hailed the field as an ‘important green space in the heart of Benson’.

An objection lodged by Chris and Penny Woodrow branded the plan a ‘sticking plaster’ to a long-term problem, adding: “We are sure that when villagers of Benson clubbed together to buy the green space years ago, for the benefit of the children of the village, they did not envisage it being built on or used for a car park.”

Expansion would see the school admit 45 children per year rather than 30, starting from this September if facilities are ready, increasing the total pupil number from 210 to 315.

A planning application submitted on behalf of the council said: “The design allows for the creation of an inspirational learning environment within a well developed, sustainable and robust building, with the provision of flexible and adaptable spaces which will meet changing educational needs.

“Any hard or soft landscaping provisions lost as a result of the new development will be compensated for by the construction of new sports facilities in the nearby housing development.

“There are no other site locations available for the proposed new teaching block outside of the current Benson Primary School boundary.”

Though district councils are usually responsible for deciding planning matters, the county council presides over applications concerned with waste management, extraction of minerals and its own projects such as extensions to schools and libraries.