Monday, 15 August 2022

Study into whether cramped village school should move

PLANS to either move or improve Goring Primary School are coming closer to fruition.

The Diocese of Oxford, which is responsible for the Church of England school, has agreed to part-fund an independent study into whether the existing Sixties premises off Wallingford Road are worth refurbishing.

If the study finds that renovation is economical, then this could go ahead.

The school could also be expanded on to the neighbouring Bourdillon Field as the governors say it is running out of space and the building is increasingly dilapidated.

However, if the study concludes that renovation is not viable, the governors could consider moving the school to a new site, probably somewhere on the outskirts of the village.

Last year, the school launched a campaign to relocate to the field east of Wallingford Road and behind the houses off Springhill Road, about half a mile north of the existing site.

The Hildred family, which owns the land, and developer McAdden Homes had agreed to build a larger £6.5 million school there free of charge.

In return, they wanted to build 56 houses next door plus 46 more on a field west of Wallingford Road and 34 flats on the current school site. The governors wanted the scheme to be included in the village’s neighbourhood plan, which names the sites where new housing should be built in order to meet Government targets and will go to a referendum next year.

But the parish council, which is overseeing the process, and the neighbourhood plan steering group said this wasn’t possible as it was beyond the plan’s scope and the developers hadn’t put those sites forward for housing when invited to do so.

Instead, it agreed to make improving the school a “strategic project” within the plan.

Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council, the education and planning authorities, requested more evidence that refurbishment was uneconomical and that the benefits of building a new school in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty would outweigh the impact on the landscape.

The governors agreed to commission the study after forming a working group with the parish council, which owns Bourdillon Field and has agreed in principle to let the school expand.

The council has agreed to pay half the cost while the diocese will pay the remainder.

A consultant will be appointed shortly and their findings should be published within about two months.

If the school decides to relocate, all landowners will be invited to offer sites.

In a joint statement, the governors said: “It is appreciated that the school’s importance to the community has been recognised within the neighbourhood plan and is acknowledged that a specific land allocation cannot be made in this plan.

“All has been going very well with great strides being made to explore all options for the school and to work through the necessary process.

“It is expected that the results of the study will be reported by early March.

“From that point, the next steps will be considered and agreed and the outcome reported to parents and the whole village.​”

Helen Scurr, who chairs the governors, said: “It’s all looking very positive and quite exciting. We’ve shortlisted providers for the study and will be appointing them very soon.

“What has become clear is that, being in an AONB, we would need a strong evidence base to justify moving the school.

“Depending on the outcome, the study will either provide us with that or show how we can make the necessary improvements on the current site.”

The school is meant to take up to 212 pupils but the governors say it is already over that number and many applicants are being turned away even if they live in the village.

They say children are being taught in portable cabins, which take up space that could be used for outdoor play. Last year, the school kitchen developed a series of faults which meant that pupils went without hot food for months.

• Electronic signs warning drivers of the 20mph advisory speed limit outside the school have been installed in Wallingford Road. The parish council paid £2,640 towards the two signs, which the school’s parent-teacher association will repay through fund-raising. In 2016 a pupil suffered a broken leg when he was struck by a car as he crossed the road further south, near the village centre.

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