Plans to relocate primary school dropped in favour of Free School

Parish councillors said they felt 'misled and cheated' after learning plans to relocate a primary school had been dropped.

Monday, 22nd February 2016, 10:38 am
Updated Monday, 22nd February 2016, 10:40 am
JPCT 02-06-12 S12230604A Shelley Primary School, Broadbridge Heath -photo by Steve Cobb ENGSUS00120120206172737

Land had been selected at the Wickhurst Green development, south of Broadbridge Heath, for the relocation and expansion of nearby Shelley Primary School.

Now, with the costs described as “prohibitive”, West Sussex County Council plans to meet with the Department for Education to discuss the possibility of opening a Free School on the site instead.

The change means Shelley Primary, which is one of many schools in the county feeling the strain of an increased demand on places, will have to stay on its current site in Wickhurst Lane.

Viv Edwards, chairman of Broadbridge Heath Parish Council, said she and her fellow councillors were “bitterly disappointed that yet again the village has been let down”.

She added: “Broadbridge Heath will double in size in the next few years, yet it seems that key facilities that were stipulated in the West of Horsham Masterplan – namely a new primary school and a GP’s surgery – will not be delivered.

“It is no wonder that the parish council and local residents feel that they have been misled and cheated.”

Plans for a GP surgery were withdrawn after Horsham and Mid Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) informed the developer there was “no desire” for one at Wickhurst Green.

Mrs Edwards said the parish council had written to the county council “to confirm that the education of children in the village, both now and in the future, will not be adversely affected in any way”.

The new school had been scheduled to open in September 2017.

In a letter to parents, headteacher David Bird said he had met with Graham Olway, the council’s principal manager for capital planning and projects, and the plans for a new school were “on hold”.

A spokesman for West Sussex County Council said: “We are currently working with the headteacher at Shelley Primary School in relation to the area’s growing population.

“It is important that we explore all options available to us in order to meet the local demand for school places.

“This includes the potential for increasing the school’s current Published Admission Number.

“There are also plans to meet with the Department for Education to discuss the possibility of a Free School for the Broadbridge Heath development. This would provide an opportunity to look at access to a different funding stream.”

The funding stream referred to the £23billion the government pledged to invest in school buildings, creating 600,000 extra places nationwide and 500 free schools by 2020.

The spokesman said a relocation and rebuild of Shelley Primary would not qualify for additional funding

The spokesman added: “Previous plans to relocate Shelley Primary School were investigated by the county council but the costs were prohibitive.

“We will continue to work with the local residents and authorities to ensure there are sufficient school places available for children in the area.“

David Sheldon, county councillor for Horsham, Tanbridge and Broadbridge Heath, said: “I think that the most important outcome is that we provide a high standard of education within Broadbridge Heath, that is easily accessible to all local children and families, whether residents of the established village or the new development.

“The mechanism by which we do that is not as significant, so without knowing the details of how any school provider might be chosen and what type of school might be offered I can’t make any further judgement.

“I supported the development of a new Shelley School and I think that would still be a positive step, but I’m waiting to see the full detail of the new proposals before coming to any conclusion about them.”

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