OWNERS at the site of a proposed new free school have pledged £400,000 toward road improvements - if the development is approved.

Satnam Developments, which represent landowners, says significant improvements will be made to Thornaby Road, close to the proposed site at Little Maltby Farm, Ingleby Barwick.

The developer will stump up £300,000 towards a new slip road at the A174 junction and £100,000 for traffic lights at the Low Lane junction as housebuilding on the site progresses.

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Despite being recommended for refusal by Stockton Borough Council’s planning officers, the scheme has the full support of conservative MP James Wharton.

Education Secretary Michael Gove gave his backing to the school when he met with parents on Friday afternoon during a whistle-stop visit to the area.

Free schools are publicly funded, but free from local authority control and run by not-for-profit groups, such as parents.

The cash for the road improvements is dependant on the plans for a 600-place secondary free school with its 150-place sixth form and 350 homes getting approval on Tuesday (January 5).

Colin Griffiths, from Satnam, said: “We have been working hard to address residents’ and stakeholders’ concerns about the impact the project could have on the area but believe the benefits the development will bring to Ingleby Barwick are worth the effort.

“Providing funds to make improvements such as these is the norm when bringing development proposals forward, and we hope to be able to deliver the new school for Ingleby Barwick as planned.”

Satnam’s pledge was welcomed by Stockton South Conservative MP James Wharton, who is backing the free school plans.

Mr Wharton said: “I’ve been pushing for the best possible deal for residents for some time and these extra improvements, alongside the school’s land and infrastructure represent a real benefit for Ingleby Barwick.”

The MP added: “I am disappointed Stockton’s planners have recommended the application for refusal, especially now that these improvements, which would benefit so many residents in Ingleby Barwick, are included.”

Currently more than 980 Ingleby Barwick children attend schools in Yarm and Eaglescliffe, with about 650 using school buses and the remainder being driven to school.

However, planning officers said that there needed to be more evidence provided to show that the school could not viably be built without the 350 houses on the green wedge land and also raised concerns about protected species of bats on the site.

Objectors were worried about traffic congestion, loss of green fields, and flooding issues.

The planning meeting takes place at 1.30pm at Stockton Baptist Tabernacle, Stockton.

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