Concerns raised over air quality amid plans for new school in Wigan borough

Plans to rebuild a school have been met with criticism from locals who believe children could be harmed from poorer air quality.
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St Thomas’ CE Primary School in Leigh was picked for redevelopment by the Department for Education as part of the Schools Rebuilding Programme in 2021.

Under the proposals, the existing site would be demolished and replaced by a school south of Hawkhurst Street – approximately 140m north of the existing site.

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Due to the poor condition of the buildings and a lack of energy efficiency, the Astley Street site was selected as one of the first 50 schools nationwide to be prioritised.

How St Thomas' CE Primary School in Leigh could lookHow St Thomas' CE Primary School in Leigh could look
How St Thomas' CE Primary School in Leigh could look
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Although investment would see a new purpose-built school for children, locals believe building on green space next to Holden Road – one of busiest roads in Leigh – could be harmful.

James Morley, of the Leigh and Atherton Independents, said: “It is about the increased volume of traffic in an already overstretched part of road infrastructure, the air quality and building on the last piece of green space on this small estate. Holden Road and Manchester Road are two of the busiest in Leigh, especially at rush hour when people are trying to get to the A580 East Lancs Road, Bedford High School or St Mary’s High School.

“Furthermore, the air quality will decrease with all the extra traffic. Surely we don’t want our children breathing in vehicle exhaust fumes.

Plans to rebuild St Thomas' CE Primary School in Leigh have led to concernsPlans to rebuild St Thomas' CE Primary School in Leigh have led to concerns
Plans to rebuild St Thomas' CE Primary School in Leigh have led to concerns
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“Lastly, why build here, it’s the last piece of green space on the estate. Wigan Council are supposed to be doing everything in their power to act on the climate emergency. Building on the last field in that area won’t help.”

However, an air quality assessment stated the site would not experience “elevated pollutant concentrations”. According to the planning documents, the level of pollution is deemed acceptable for all relevant exposure periods.

The assessment, conducted by 1st Horizon for DfE, said: “It is predicted with confidence that all pollutant concentrations across the two school sites would be acceptable for its use as a school or similar sensitive use from an air quality perspective.”

If plans are approved, a new net-zero school would open with 17 classrooms, kitchen, hall, library, office space and playground. It would not bring extra school places, with a roll maximum of 420.