The Buckinghamshire village that could scupper Michael Gove’s free school revolution

A Buckinghamshire village is threatening legal action over plans to set up an 850-pupil Sikh secondary school in its midst. Residents of wealthy Stoke Poges have warned they will seek a judicial review of the proposal after Department for Education {DfE) bought an office block in the village for the school for a reputed £4.5m. This is from the Independent…

If the legal action went ahead, it would be a test case of new government powers allowing free schools to set up in premises such as offices or even former pubs without planning permission.

Most of the pupils for the school, planned by the Slough Sikh Education Trust, would be bussed into the village of 5,000 people every day after being collected from a primary school in neighbouring Slough. The school is scheduled to open in September and could eventually cater for 845 pupils.

Villagers say they have canvassed opinion among parents and only one said they would consider sending their child to it – but the child then obtained a place at a local grammar school.

Under sweeping powers introduced this year, the Government can commandeer land to accommodate new free schools for 12 months without planning permission. The measure was deemed necessary because many such schools given the green light by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, had to put off their opening dates because they could not find suitable premises.

However, the legislation was invoked in Stoke Poges only after it became clear that the planning authority, South Bucks District Council, was about to refuse planning consent for the school. One of the main grounds was the traffic congestion the proposal would cause in the village. A report to the planning committee said the site was “in an unsustainable location poorly served by public transport”.

Villagers now say they have been told the school may make Pioneer House – the office block purchased for the trust by the DfE for a reported £4.5m – a permanent home or use it for the first year of other free schools planned for Slough, which says it has no room for new school buildings.

County councillor Trevor Egleton told The Independent: “We don’t want a secondary school here. We don’t need a secondary school here. To put a large secondary school with over 1,000 people in it in one of our villages would be an environmental disaster.”

More at:  The Buckinghamshire village that could scupper Michael Gove’s free school revolution

Is this a real world example looking at the extent to which local authority approval should count in free school applications and therefore highlighting potential differences between current coalition policy and that proposed this week by Labour’s Stephen Twigg? Or are the villagers here being nimbys, unprepared to play their part in helping solve a wider school places shortage? Please let us know what you think…

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Categories: Free Schools, Local authorities and Policy.

Comments

  1. prawnsandwich

    SchoolsImprove Gove has given himself too many powers. Local democracy and strategic planning should not be subverted so easily.

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