Thursday, 16 September 2021

Village's 'last chance' to move under-sized and crumbling school

PLANS to relocate Goring Primary School have been submitted.

The Diocese of Oxford, which runs the Church of England primary, is seeking permission from Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority, to build a new £6.5million school in a field about half a mile to the north of the current school in Wallingford Road.

The new school would be the same size as the current one, which can accommodate up to 212 pupils, but could expand to 318 places if demand grew.

The existing school, which was built in the Sixties, would then be demolished and the site redeveloped into 34 flats.

Fifty-six new houses would be built next to the new school behind the houses in Springhill Road, accessed from Wallingford Road.

The Hildred family, of Ipsden, which owns the 9.25-acre field, says this is the only way the scheme could be viable and is working with McAdden Homes, of Reading.

Another 46 homes would be built on a 10-acre field on the opposite side of Wallingford Road, which is also owned by the Hildreds.

The diocese and the school’s board of governors say the current school is oversubscribed and potential new pupils are being turned away, even if they live in Goring.

This problem is likely to get worse as the village has been allocated at least 86 new homes by South Oxfordshire District Council in order to help meet government targets.

However, the school’s relocation plan clashes with the emerging draft of the Goring neighbourhood plan, which says the Springhill Road site should take only about 40 homes and rules out developing the other field, saying it would harm the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The existing school site, which covers about 2.5 acres, was not put forward for inclusion in the neighbourhood plan when landowners were given the chance to offer sites last year.

The diocese also says the existing school buildings have reached the end of their expected life, are poorly constructed and contain toxic asbestos. Refurbishment would cost more than £1million, which it says it cannot afford. The school could expand on to the neighbouring Bourdillon Field, a public green space owned by Goring Parish Council, but the county council would not pay for this.

A diocese spokesman said: “If the opportunity is not grasped by the village now, there is unlikely to be another chance to get a new school for Goring in the foreseeable future. This proposal presents a long-term, holistic solution to the issues currently facing the school. We ask that the village is allowed to decide whether some housing is a price worth paying for a 21st-century school.

“The offer on the table is unique and unlikely to be repeated. If the opportunity is not grasped now, the site will not be available in the future as it will have houses built on it.

“Moreover, if it were deemed appropriate to relocate the school at some point in the future, potential sites would almost certainly be further out from the centre of the village.

“The project is at nil-risk to the school as the current school site would not be released until the new school is satisfactorily completed. This is deliverable without public subsidy, proportionate and appropriate to the size of Goring and offers an excellent package for the local community.”

Nigel Gilson, co-chairman of the neighbourhood plan steering group, said: “We share the diocese’s desire to provide the best possible education for our children.

“However, the proposal needs careful consideration as it raises a number of issues and our own plan is coming pretty close to completion. At this stage we wouldn’t be in a position to include it even if we were minded to do so.

“Additionally, the school never submitted its own site for inclusion so we do not know whether neighbours are happy or what the visual impact might be.”

A county council spokesman said: “While we would support any proposal which brings additional resources to the county’s education infrastructure, more work is needed to identify whether the proposal is viable.”

The school’s governors also discussed an arrangement with Archstone, a developer representing the owners of a 10-acre field off Gatehampton Road, but ruled this site out as too remote.

l A drop-in session about the proposal with the governors and developer will be held at the school on July 11, from 4.30pm to 8pm.

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