THE HOLT SCHOOL in Emmbrook is set to get a new dance studio classroom but concerns have been raised about a lack of sprinklers in plans for the new facility.

The extension, which would provide three new drama and dance teaching spaces as well as new toilets, represents an increase of 412 square meters to the school, which is an academy and not under direct control of the council.

But in November 2018 councillors came together to support a motion which stated that Wokingham Borough Council should support the installation of sprinklers at all new school buildings larger than 150 square meters.

Cllr Imogen Shepherd-DuBey told the News:”I certainly would be upset if The Holt School was allowed to proceed with this application, without installing sprinklers.

“Time and time again, it has been proved that sprinklers save lives and stop the spread of fire damage.

“If a school was damaged by fire, Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) is still required to ensure that our children have access to the facilities needed by their education. It does not matter if the school they attend is an academy, or not.

“The planning committee has the power to make this a requirement for this application. The motion that every councillor agreed to, makes this a borough-wide policy.

“At the moment, we cannot ask for sprinklers to be retrofitted to the rest of the school, there just isn't the money. But, we all agreed to begin by putting them in new buildings.

“I hope The Holt School understands and agrees to this important feature. You just need to look at what happened at Selsey Academy to see how bad it could be.”

A report produced for Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee recommended the planning application should be approved, claiming that due to existing legislation outside of council planning control it would be "inappropriate to refuse" the application based on a lack of detail about sprinkler installation. 

The report concluded: “The proposal represents a sympathetic and modest extension to the existing arts building and will enhance teaching and learning facilities at the school as part of the approved increase in admission numbers.”

The application received no objections from neighbours, local council members or Wokingham Town Council, but comments were received from councillor Imogen Shepherd-DuBey. 

Members of the council’s planning committee will vote on the proposal at a meeting on Wednesday, January 9.