Thursday, 21 October 2021

'Development site should go to new school'

A FIELD earmarked for housing under Goring’s draft neighbourhood plan should be the new location for the village primary school, according to the governors.

They say the school is underfunded and oversubscribed so it should move to the 2.8-hectare site off Wallingford Road, which runs behind the houses in Springhill Road and could accommodate about 40 new homes.

They held a “positive dialogue” with the Hildred family, of Icknield Farm, who own the land, and developer McAdden Homes.

The plot 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.

Goring and Cleeve Pre-School, which shares the existing site further south off Wallingford Road, would also relocate.

The steering group that is writing the neighbourhood plan says the school should stay put and expand instead.

There is no more space on the main site but the group says it could take over part of Bourdillon Field, a neighbouring green space. The governors say there is no money for this and the school buildings, some of which date back to the Sixties, need replacing.

The school can accommodate up to 212 pupils but it has already exceeded this figure and often has to reject applications for places from families living in the village.

In addition, Goring’s population is set to increase over the next decade as it must take at least 86 new homes by 2027 to meet targets.

The governors fear more children will be rejected unless a new school is built.

They said: “Our main buildings are reaching the end of their expected life and funding constraints are such that we are struggling to meet basic expenses to keep the school operational.

“Most of our classes are full and we are, regrettably, having to turn down applications from in-catchment children.

“The possibility of extending on to part of Bourdillon Field has been mooted but this is not considered a viable solution at this point. Not only would the school still face the problems associated with its aging infrastructure, but there is no funding to extend the facilities and such a move would deprive the local community of a popular recreational green space.

“It is our view that a new, low-maintenance and energy-efficient facility would provide all the children within our catchment area with more space and a secure, enhanced learning environment. This, we feel, is a unique opportunity which we have a duty to explore.

“Our efforts to incorporate the possibility of a new school into the neighbourhood plan’s site selection process were not successful — this despite one of the plan’s draft objectives being ‘to ensure that there are sufficient places available in the village school for all primary-aged children living in Goring at any point’.

“We have expressed our disappointment at the plan’s sole focus on house-building, rather than taking a broader view of how certain proposals could benefit the community as a whole.”

A spokesman for the steering group said there wouldn’t be enough housing land elsewhere if a new school went on the Springhill Road site. The draft neighbourhood plan names three other sites for development: a field between Manor Road and Elmcroft (up to 25 homes), land at Thames Court, off High Street (16 homes) and a field off Icknield Road (10 homes).

Other plots offered for development by landowners were deemed unsuitable due to the impact on the surrounding countryside.

The group spokesman said: “The school will not consider expansion on to Bourdillon Field but it should be eminently possible.

“With the level of new development we’re expecting, the statutory contributions from developers should raise a significant amount to fund it. The existing site is ideal as it is in the centre of the village.”

Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority, agrees the school cannot expand but insists it can cater for the predicted number of extra pupils.

The draft neighbourhood plan will be presented to the parish council in February before public consultation.

A referendum is expected to take place in the summer.

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