Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Q5: The school that never was...

Cllr P. M. Dilks to ask the Leader of the Council:

The farce that led to this Council being ridiculed over “the road to nowhere” has now delivered “the school that never was”.

You will recall that written Standing Order 9 Questions were tabled by both the former Leader of this Council, former Councillor Croft and myself at the full Council meeting on 1 July, 2005.

Following our questions, I understand that you took a personal interest in the dispute with the developers over the Section 106 Agreement to provide a new primary school on the new Elsea Park housing estate at Bourne.

Despite the finished road remaining closed for a further 16 weeks, at the full Council meeting on 16 September, 2005, you refused my requests for an enquiry, so we could learn the lessons from what had gone wrong.

On 10th October 2005, the following Council press release announced that you had finally reached agreement with the developers:


A brand new school for primary pupils in Bourne is to be built by Allison Homes as part of an agreement with Lincolnshire County Council and South Kesteven District Council. The majority of funding will come from the development of Elsea Park in Bourne with the County Council also contributing to the cost of the building.

It is planned to open the school in September 2007. Initially it will have 4 classrooms but will be extended to a one form of entry school accommodating 30 pupils in each year group over subsequent years. The school will have state-of-the-art facilities, including its own playing field and would have the potential to be used by the community.

Local views are important in shaping the role of the school and consultation will take place in order to hear the views of parents and children, other schools in the area and the wider community.

The school is part of a package of benefits to the community negotiated by the County Council and District Council from the developers of Elsea Park. It includes playing field land being made available to the Grammar School, other funding for secondary schools and a library service, the Bourne Relief Road and other local facilities.

Complex negotiations recently concluded the matter enabling a completion date for the new school to be agreed that will deliver it by the time the new houses provide enough local pupils to fill it.

It is forecast that demand will grow and the school will have the potential to expand to two forms of entry in time if necessary.

The Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services, Councillor Mrs Patricia Bradwell was excited about the potential development of a new school for the estate.

“We are delighted at the prospect of a new school in Bourne. This will offer the very best primary education facilities to meet the needs of this expanding town.”

The agreement (known as a Section 106 Agreement) provides a route for developers to contribute to necessary and reasonable infrastructure improvements that are required as a result of new development

Following this agreement, Allison Homes finally allowed the road to be opened – and Bourne MP Quentin Davies withdrew his threat to launch a Compulsory Purchase Order if the road remained closed.

However, there have been two developments in recent weeks:

1. On Friday, 31st March, your predecessor as Leader, Councillor Ian Croft - in whose Division the proposed school may or may not be built - was removed from this Council by the Standards Board of England following nine breaches of the Code of Conduct.

2. Four days later, on Tuesday, 4th April, the following press release was published by this Council revealing that the school was not now needed and that discussions are continuing “to reach an agreement” – despite the renegotiated agreement to build the school announced less than six months earlier.

Following further consideration and analysis of available information and discussions with local schools, the Council has decided it will not progress the building of a new school at Elsea Park, Bourne, to open in September 2007. However, the Council is continuing discussions with the developer and other schools in the area to reach an agreement on the way forward.

Councillor Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, said: “While we are committed to a further school in the future we are keen to ensure the continuity of both existing primary schools.”

These recent developments raise wide-ranging and serious questions such as:

1. Why was the Council’s April 4th press release announcing that the school would no longer be built as a matter of urgency in former Councillor Croft’s electoral division announced only two working days after he was barred from being a Councillor?

2. What involvement, if any, did former Councillor Croft have in any of the decisions relating to the Elsea Park development?

3. Could you please say what exactly changed in the six months between October and April?

4. What are the projected numbers of primary children at the two existing schools, and in the whole of the Bourne area, for the next five years?

5. When did you discover that building a new school in Bourne would threaten the continuity of the existing primary schools as stated in your press release of 4th April?

6. Why are you so keen to ensure the continuity of both existing primary schools when, at the same time, you are pressing ahead with closure of schools in other parts of the county in the face of strong opposition from parents, residents, staff, governors, councillors, and church representatives?

7. Will you now make available copies and all papers relating to the original Section 106 Agreements concerning the Elsea Park site and all subsequent amendments?

8. Given these developments, will you now reconsider your refusal to hold an inquiry so that we can learn the lessons and move on?

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