PLANNERS have again rejected an eco academy in Herefordshire over fears it will outgrow its own surrounds.

Refusing the plan for a second time is a big blow to Whitehall, which wants the academy on the Steiner (Waldorf) School site in Much Dewchurch.

The first plan was rejected by Herefordshire Council's southern area planning sub-committee earlier this year and an appeal against that decision is pending.

But last Wednesday, the committee said no to a second plan to address concerns raised during the refusal of the first.

Members still thought the academy, as proposed, was too big for Much Dewchurch - and heard that many villagers agreed.

A state-funded Steiner Academy - specialising in environmental studies - is a key element of the government's education programme.

Academies are publicly-funded independent schools set up by private sponsors like business or faith groups which control the curriculum and standards. If approved, the academy would have opened next year as the first of its kind in the UK, with 330 pupils aged from three to 16. The current school takes 270.

Though the government had pledged to put £10 million towards the bid, planners were worried about the impact the development, which included new buildings and improvements to the present school site, would have on the community around it.

Councillor Phillip Cutter said: "I think the sheer scale of the development compared to the size of the village is out of scale for the area."

Councillor Jo Fishley said although the scheme could be seen as a marvellous opportunity, she could not support it because of local opposition. "The school does not have the goodwill of the village," she said.

Councillor John Jarvis said he had not seen sufficient changes to persuade him to change his mind about the scheme and was still concerned about parking and traffic problems.

And Councillor Richard Smith said in the recent election the issue was second only to safety concerns about the A49.