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Bedford Free School


ECE Planning has received planning permission for a new rooftop extension to the existing Bedford Free School building. The development, designed by ECE Architecture, comprises a multipurpose hall, activity studio, changing rooms, offices and stores within the constraints of the existing building’s roof-scape.

Bedford Free School is a mixed secondary free school. Founded in 2010, the school opened in September 2012 and at full capacity will have 500 pupils aged 11-16 years old.

Engagement with the local community, undertaken prior to the submission of the planning application, received extremely positive feedback gaining support from neighbouring Bedford College and also from several local ward councillors.

Situated on Cauldwell St. in Bedford, a heavily trafficked A-road, the existing five-storey brick building is a fairly typical example of 1980’s office developments with simple brickwork details and a rigid rhythm of brick piers and window openings.

The school building is located within the setting of a number of heritage assets including the grade 1 listed St Mary’s Church. The site is also seen from the Bedford Conservation Area and therefore required consultation with Historic England in addition to the preparation of a full heritage statement.

The designation of the locality as a “key area of change” in Bedford’s Town Centre Area Action Plan inspired the design direction for the new addition. The result is a contrasting proposal with external materials and carefully considered openings that play on the transparency and weight of the composition making the most of the views from a marvellous vantage point over Bedford.


T&B Contractors Ltd




Bedford Borough Council




Client Testimonial

Terry Brightmore, Terra Firma Designs

“Once again an excellent service from the team at ECE. They were able to interpret our design brief and work around the site constraints and were also able to increase the scale of the scheme from 16 to 24 units, increasing the value of the project and taking leadership of the planning process.”

Matt Heath, Director Dawson Heath Property Ltd

“Once again an excellent service from the Planning team at ECE. Good value, great attitude to work, proactive and easy to get along with.”

Ben Cheal, Managing Director Roffey Homes Ltd

“ECE Planning have provided a friendly, yet highly professional service, displaying both their detailed planning knowledge and strategy on many occasions. Chris, Sam and Karen have been consistently excellent on managing the planning aspects of all projects we have worked with them on, and would hope to continue that relationship beyond the current live and recently completed projects.”

Tim Hague, Director of Property & Development Shoreham Port

“Sam and the team at ECE Planning have successfully steered three complicated commercial schemes through the planning system on behalf of the Shoreham Port Authority. We have been impressed by the professionalism, efficiency and dedication to progress our projects through the planning system under challenging timeframes. We are absolutely delighted with the results.”

Tim Warren, Planning and Land Manager, Jenner Group

We have worked closely with ECE for a number of years and continue to build on an excellent working relationship with them based on true collaborative working and trust. ECE have undertaken feasibility work, planning advice, planning submission and working drawings for us on a number of projects and we have always found them to work to a high quality and professional in their approach. We will continue to enjoy working with them on future projects as our experience with them has always been very positive.”

Darren Jacob, Managing Director, ValidusLM

“ECE Planning have always worked pro-actively to address challenging planning matters,  solving problems as they come up on this complex site. Chris and Sam managed the intricate submission and relationship with the client and key stakeholders with a dynamic and always positive ‘can-do’ attitude. I look forward to working further together.”

Sammi Charad, Development Manager, Shaptor Capital

'ECE excelled in providing clear advice in our recent planning appeal and other successful projects. We are very happy with the advice and service we have received from Huw and Ben.'

Alan Goldberg, CSN Homes

‘Huw and Karen at ECE have been fundamental in delivering some challenging brownfield sites on our behalf. They have provided clear professional advice ,without delay and we look forward to working with them again.’

Clive Lawrence, Senior Design Manager, Kier

“ECE have worked with Kier to deliver a number of projects, often on challenging sites. Huw and Karen have provided clear professional advice and worked proactively on each of our projects. We have forged a good working relationship and we look forward to working with ECE again.’

Sam Wiggins, Oceanview Developments Ltd

"ECE Planning were instrumental in getting our Reserved Matters and associated conditions applications positively determined under very challenging circumstances. We've been thoroughly impressed."

Brian Wilkinson, Private Client

"We are so pleased - indeed delighted - to get planning permission after such a long journey (I think we initiated this process back in 2015!). Thank you to all involved at ECE for your efforts. A great result."

John Longhorn, Planning Manager, Vistry Homes

"Working with both ECE Architecture and ECE Planning is a seamless and exceptionally well managed process.  Planning considerations are integrated fully with the design approach from the outset. Chris, Sam, and Nick have been excellent in managing the planning aspects of many schemes, always taking a proactive, pragmatic and responsive approach to delivering difficult projects in challenging timeframes."