Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Landowners asked to offer sites for new village school

LANDOWNERS in Goring are being invited to offer sites for a new village primary school.

The governors of the existing Church of England school, off Wallingford Road, want to move to larger premises due to a shortage of places and have been offered a new home by a property developer.

But Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority, says they cannot accept this without first determining whether a more suitable location is available.

The school has approached everyone who put land forward for housing under the Goring neighbourhood plan, which is due to go to a referendum early next year.

These include the owners of seven sites off Gatehampton Road and two off Manor Road, both in the southern edge of the village, two in the village centre and two off Battle Road at the eastern edge.

McAdden Homes has offered to build a new £6million school on a field north of the houses in Springhill Road, about half a mile north of the existing school, which would be able to accommodate 315 pupils, a 50 per cent increase.

In return, the developer wants to build 56 houses next door as well as 46 more on a field on the opposite side of Wallingford Road and 34 flats for the elderly on the old school site.

The school currently has 233 pupils despite its official capacity of 210 and the pressure is expected to increase as the village must accommodate at least 86 new homes by 2027 to meet national housing targets.

The governors and the Diocese of Oxford say they have to reject applicants for places even if they live in the village.

The current school building, which dates back to 1960, is in a poor condition and facilities like the kitchen and toilets need constant repair. Last year, pupils went without hot food for several weeks after cooking equipment broke down and had to be replaced.

A complete refurbishment would cost £1million but wouldn’t create extra capacity.

Goring Parish Council has agreed to support the search for a new school as a “strategic project” under the neighbourhood plan.

It will help the governors and the diocese assess all their options, which must include an independent study weighing up the pros and cons of refurbishing the school, building a new one on the same site and building a larger one that would expand on to the neighbouring Bourdillon Field, which is owned by the council.

The public would have to be formally consulted, as would schools in neighbouring villages that could see their rolls fall if the new school was built.

An independent expert could be appointed to scrutinise the county council’s forecast for the growth in pupil numbers.

A working group of parents and governors is obtaining quotes for professional advice.

Governor Helen Scurr said: “We’re very pleased with the way things are now going. We’re definitely taking steps in the right direction and hope this process will result in a positive outcome for the whole community.

“We were originally approached with two proposals, one by McAdden and another by a different developer, and at that stage we favoured the former because it provided funding as well as land.

“It was the best one on the table but I would stress that we’re now open to all ideas and aren’t prejudiced for or against any particular site. If anyone wants to get in touch, their submission will be fully considered.”

Potential sites must be around one or two hectares and within Goring parish. Details should be emailed by November 3 to clerk@goring.oxon.sch.uk

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