Primary in fight to expand

22nd July 2005 at 01:00
State-of-the-art eco-school has lost vital play space to property developers. Dorothy Lepkowska reports

It was conceived as a state-of-the-art eco-school for the 21st century, but five years after it opened Gateford Park primary is at the centre of a wrangle between the local authority, the district council and housing developers.

The one-acre site, in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, was supposed to serve a new housing estate, but the school is already too small, and land earmarked for expansion has been sold to developers.

Last week, pupils taking part in a sports day had to run twice around the school because the playground measures just 30 metres by 25 metres. Two mobile classrooms built to house its growing number of pupils are encroaching on playing space, and two more planned for September will reduce it still further.

Breaks and lunchtimes will be staggered next term so that the 306 pupils are not all using the playground at the same time.

And from September 2006, siblings could be turned away because the school will have to cut its intake of 60 pupils to 30.

Jane Stead, a parent-governor, said: "We have been lied to.

"We were told months ago that a compulsory purchase order would be issued by the LEA for the field next to the school. But we now find it has been sold to developers and no order has been served.

"The architects had already drawn up plans for the expansion of the school because we were told the land was ours. It is absolutely devastating."

Heather Taylor, headteacher, said: "Staff are making the best use of what we have."

Barratt Homes, which already had outline planning consent for 200 homes, bought the site more than a year ago. It has since begun building work.

Bassetlaw district council's head of planning, Jim Kehoe, said: "The council's policy for the land is set out in the Bassetlaw local plan, which was finalised in 2001.

"It is allocated for residential development and this allocation was made on the recommendation of an independent inspector after a public inquiry."

Nottinghamshire county council said negotiations with Barratt about buying part of the land had failed and it now plans to issue a compulsory purchase order.

"If such an approach is unsuccessful, clearly the county council will need to explore alternative provision," a statement said.

A Barratt Group spokesman said the site was purchased in good faith in spring 2004.

He added: "Nottinghamshire county council subsequently suggested that a small part of the land should have been earmarked for educational purposes before we bought it, and that it may have to consider a compulsory purchase order. That order did not materialise and work on the development is now well under way."

* dorothy.lepkowska@tes.co.uk

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