‘We will not rest, we will not pipe down, we will not go away’ was the message from campaigners battling to see a college built in Burgess Hill for children with special needs, reports local democracy reporter Karen Dunn.
For years, the Complete Woodlands Meed campaign has been supporting governors, staff and local councillors desperate to see West Sussex County Council make good on its promise to build the college.
Following a county local committee meeting in Albourne, their message to Nigel Jupp, the council’s new cabinet member for education, was a clear ‘get the job done’.
The school in Chanctonbury Road, Burgess Hill, opened in 2012, but funding to build a college has never surfaced, leaving older children to be educated in prefabricated buildings in Birchwood Grove Road.
The arrangement has been described as ‘not fit for purpose’ and the council has admitted it was ‘not the best environment for the pupils or the most efficient way to run this school’.
While the council announced in February that up to £20million would be included in its capital programme to fund the new college, delays have seen the final decision pushed back to January.
As such, the hoped for September 2021 opening date now looks unlikely.
A campaign spokesman said: “Councillors attending the meeting unanimously agreed that there has been enough talk and now is the time for action.
“They told us that [the council] simply need to just get the job done.
“As we said at the meeting we will not rest, we will not pipe down, we will not go away. The community will continue to fight this injustice until [the council] puts it right and delivers the new college.”
Marion Wilcocks, chairman of governors at Woodlands Meed, said Mr Jupp would have the school’s full support but warned the governors would not ‘stand by and wait’ while the issue worked its way through ‘yet more meetings’.
Mrs Wilcocks said: “The root of the matter is that the council decided the buildings at the college did not meet acceptable standards in 2009. The council’s own documents confirm that they do not meet acceptable standards and statutory requirements.
“No school can continue to operate in buildings which are unsuitable and where it cannot provide the primary requirement to deliver the national curriculum.”
While thanking local councillors for their support, she shared concerns raised at the meeting that they were all ‘backbenchers’ with little power to overturn decisions.
Woodlands Meed will be discussed at the next meeting of the council’s Children and Young People’s Services Select Committee on Wednesday December 4. The meeting will be held at County Hall North, in Horsham, from 10.30am.