Monday, 25 June 2018

Campaigners urged to call off fight to relocate school

PARENTS and governors campaigning to relocate Goring Primary School have been urged to forget the idea.

They want the Wallingford Road school to move to a larger site as it has already exceeded its capacity of 212 pupils and even children who live in the village have been refused a place.

They would like to use a 2.8-hectare field behind the houses in Springhill Road, which has been provisionally earmarked for about 40 homes under the Goring neighbourhood plan.

The campaigners argue that the houses could instead be shared between a smaller field on the opposite side of Wallingford Road and the school’s current site.

They say they have had “positive dialogue” with the Hildred family, of Icknield Farm, who own both fields, and developer McAdden Homes.

The larger field could be gifted to the diocese of Oxford, which runs the primary, while the developer could pay for a new school with space for up to 45 pupils in each year group.

The campaigners have launched an online petition, which has been signed by 170 people so far.

But now the group of volunteers writing the draft neighbourhood plan says the smaller field is unfit for development due to the impact on the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It has urged organisers to scrap the petition, saying it has already held four meetings with them and wishes to continue the discussions. Co-chairman Mike Stares said: “We do not object in principle to a new school but cannot support the proposal, primarily because it involves building on a site that has been deemed unacceptable for development.

“Allocation of this site would place at risk the protection of the AONB… and create a significant risk of uncontrolled development being built all around Goring, which would be against the overwhelming wishes of the village.

“We believe this campaign presents an unjust and one-sided view of the situation and, furthermore, that it is divisive and encouraging unacceptable and abusive behaviour.”

Kevin Bulmer, chairman of Goring Parish Council, which is supervising the steering group, said he was “disappointed” that the governors had launched the campaign without consulting the steering group or Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority.

“An issue this important deserves far more serious consideration than an online petition can possibly offer,” he said.

Cllr Bulmer, who is also Goring’s county councillor, said the school should have written a formal business case and held a public consultation.

The county council, the education authority, says there is enough space on Bourdillon Field, which is next to the school and is owned by Goring Parish Council, for the primary’s future needs and that an extension could be funded by statutory contributions from the developers of the housing.

It also says that a school with 45 pupils per year group would be too big and could draw children away from smaller rural schools nearby.

The campaigners say many of the existing school buildings date back to the Sixties and should be replaced at a cost of at least £1million but the school is underfunded and there is not enough money to expand on to Bourdillon Field.

The petition says: “We believe the draft neighbourhood plan is flawed as it does not take into account the offer of a new school at no cost to the village, school or taxpayer.

“As a community, we should adopt a long-term vision by grasping this unique opportunity... this would be a fantastic legacy that will benefit many future generations of Goring children.”

Villager Samantha Saye has signed the petition and writes: “Planned development in the village is only set to increase pressure on the school.

“The neighbourhood plan would be doing the community a disservice if this opportunity was not investigated.”

Joe Antonowicz says: “More than 80 new homes are going to be built, mostly for families with children, yet we will continue with a school which not only cannot cope but is no longer of adequate standard. Is this how we are going to treat future generations?”

Tim Smith writes: “I appreciate the significant efforts that the steering group has made but both the physical condition of the school buildings and the scarcity of pupil places are of very high priority.

“This opportunity fundamentally changes the necessary scope of the neighbourhood plan.”

Former parent Bernice Hurst adds: “It seems far more sensible to have a new, purpose-built school which everyone can move into rather than patching up the dilapidated buildings while simultaneously trying to teach several hundred children.”

Under the parents’ plan, Goring and Cleeve Pre-School, which shares the school site, would also relocate.

The Goring neighbourhood plan names the sites where 86 dwellings should go by 2027 to meet Government targets and will become legally binding if it passes a referendum in September.

The referendum was originally expected to take place in the summer but has been put back due to the extra work needed to assess future housing need under South Oxfordshire District Council’s new local plan which says the village could take at least 200 new homes by 2032.

l What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email letters@henleystandard,co.uk

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