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Call for consultation over education plans
11:01am Wednesday 20th February 2013 in News
SCHOOLS and residents are appealing for a say over plans to increase education provision alongside Hambleton district’s largest housing estate.
Sowerby Community Primary School, All Saints’ Roman Catholic Primary School and Thirsk School and Sixth Form College have held meetings to discuss ways in which £2.55m of education funding tied to the second phase of Sowerby Gateway could be spent.
The funding from developers Mulberry Homes is ring-fenced for educational use, as is an 1.1-hectare area of land set aside on plans for the 925-home estate, and both could be used in a variety of ways.
In outline plans for the project south-west of Thirsk, it was proposed developers would provide a seven classroom primary school between 2016 and 2021.
North Yorkshire County Council had projected families moving to the development would generate a need for extra places for children aged under 11, while the nearby Thirsk School would have the capacity to take extra older pupils.
County hall education chiefs said they wanted the new school sited towards the south of the estate, away from the junction of Topcliffe Road and Gravel Hole Lane.
Despite this, it was initially proposed the new school would be built east of Topcliffe Road, next to a neighbourhood centre and the secondary school.
It was suggested the site would allow pupils and parents of both schools to enjoy the common facilities.
At a meeting of Thirsk Town Council this week it emerged developers have swapped the proposed leisure and education sites to enable the new school to expand if necessary.
However, some members of the schools’ governing bodies are questioning whether the funding should instead be used to extend and improve facilities at the existing primary schools and use the education land as playing fields.
It is understood there are also concerns about the extra administrative burden an additional primary school could place on Thirsk School, which already takes pupils from a dozen primaries in the area.
At a Sowerby Parish Council meeting, Councillor Steve Hoyland called on outgoing county councillor for the ward, Neville Huxtable, to press his County Hall colleagues to ensure a full public consultation exercise would be held.
He said: “I know the governing bodies of the secondary and the two primary schools are concerned about whether there should be a new school or an extension or merger with existing schools.
“I think a consultation is quite urgent considering the Gateway development is launching, so it won’t be too far in the pipeline before we have to start thinking about those issues as well.”