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LATEST: New school proposal - the Cart before the Horse!

June 19, 2013 6:39 PM
Cllr Barry Aspinell

Cllr Barry Aspinell

Cllr Barry Aspinell's latest update on the proposed school:

Firstly, I would again like to thank local residents for bringing this to our attention via, initially, twitter. Had this not happened, I doubt we would have as much information as we now do. Officers have apologised for not informing me in an appropriate fashion, but it seems clear that the information has only been divulged now because of the "leak" as you can see from the officer email below:

Dear Cllr Aspinall, [sic]
Following my telephone call this morning I am e mailing you and all the local Brentwood Councillors to explain the situation about the possible primary school on the former Sawyers Hall site. We were arranging a meeting with all councillors and you will have had an e mail confirming a meeting on 4 July but unfortunately it would seem the possibility of a school on the site has 'leaked' out in the community so as we discussed I am letting you know the background to this and the current situation.
The Department for Education announced a bidding process in March, in the run up to the Purdah period and school holidays, for extra funding to help meet the rising need for primary school places across the country. There is a growth in pupil numbers in Brentwood and more places will be needed in the next few years so the County Council took the opportunity to apply for funding for this possible project along with others around the county. We are awaiting the outcome of these bids.. Due to the tight timescales involved and the timing of the process a consultation could not be conducted in advance of the bid being submitted, in the way we would normally progress such issues.
If the bid is successful the County Council will need to consider whether it wishes to proceed with this proposal. If it does it will be required to invite interest from 15 July in sponsoring the school as an academy. If the Council does not proceed then an alternative solution(s) to the need for places will need to be brokered with the local schools.

Two questions immediately leap to mind:
1. Why does purdah affect decisions of this nature as this is County Council business, especially as purdah finished on 3rd May 2013.
2. We need to ascertain why elected members are not consulted before action is actually sanctioned in their division, as is in this case, and establish the "need" for another school in Brentwood.
Tory-controlled Essex County Council has decided to bid for this government funding to the tune of £1.4M so that they can use the buildings under their ownership that are still remaining on the Sawyers Hall Lane and are currently unused by the Becket Keys school.
It seems to me that the County have seen a funding stream and are moulding a case around the need to access funds. Someone is putting the cart before the horse here!
Matters that need to be addressed are the pottential effect on thesurrounding area and existing infant/junior schools, the planning application that MUST follow, the Highways Assessment that must accompany the planning application and the results of the consultation with the various schools, not to mention consultation still to be had with members, parents and local residents.
I will continue to keep you informed, as I am electected to do.
Cllr Barry Aspinell
County Councillor - Brentwood North Division