Sunday, 19 September 2021

Council to consider idea of moving school for housing

PROPOSALS to relocate Goring Primary School and build new homes in its place are to be discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the parish council.

Councillors have responded to a campaign by parents and the school’s governors but insist they will still not include the plans in the Goring neighbourhood plan,

Even if they decide at next month’s meeting to pursue the idea, they say more supporting evidence will be required.

The governors and the Diocese of Oxford, which is responsible for the Church of England primary, want to move the school from its current home off Wallingford Road to a field behind the houses in Springhill Road.

The school site would then be redeveloped into 34 flats and 56 houses would be built next door with another 46 on a field on the opposite site of Wallingford Road.

The idea was put forward by the Hildred family, of Ipsden, which owns both fields and is working in partnership with McAdden Homes, of Reading. The developer is willing to build the school at no cost but says the housing is needed to make it viable.

The governors and parents say the existing school is in a poor condition and is already nearly full before the construction of another 86 homes by 2027 in order to meet government targets.

They want scheme to be included in the neighbourhood plan, which will identify the sites where the new houses should go and is due to go to a referendum later this year.

They put forward the idea last year when the volunteer steering group that is preparing the document called for landowners to offer sites but claim they were rebuffed.

But the steering group has said it doesn’t want to delay the process because it could leave the village open to speculative development. The group, which the parish council supervises, also says the Springhill Road site is only suitable for about 40 homes while developing the field west of Wallingford Road would cause unacceptable damage to the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Beauty.

The parish council meeting will be held in the Belleme Room at the village hall on September 13 at 7.30pm.

In a statement, the council said: “We are aware that some parents feel their desire for a new school is not being heard, much less properly addressed. They are reacting to a proposal by a housing developer in which they have been promised a new school at no cost to the school.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are a lot of strings attached which add to the complexity of the issue.

“We have great sympathy for their desire for the best possible facilities for their children and future children and indeed we share that desire.

“After hearing about their campaign, and recognising that there is a great deal of missing information, we have sought to connect with parents to try to help forge a way forward.” Parish councillor Bryan Urbick, who has been liaising with parents, said: “If we considered this for the neighbourhood plan, we would have to evaluate the suitability of the old school site and would therefore have to re-open the call for land to everyone.

“Building on the field west of Wallingford Road was actually quite popular during public consultation on South Oxfordshire District Council’s Local Plan, but it has since been deemed highly inappropriate because of the impact on the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“This doesn’t rule it out but there would have to be exceptional reasons for putting it in the plan.

“There must also be a proven need for the school, which entails a number of steps, including proving that there’s nowhere else it could go.”

Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority, has not ruled out a new school but wants more detail and it is concerned that a larger school could draw pupils from other villages.

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