Surrey County Council is developing a proposal that a Warlingham primary school could be rebuilt on a new site and expanded to create 210 more school places.
Warlingham Village Primary, which has an Ofsted “outstanding” rating, would be rebuilt nearby s under plans to help meet growing demand for school places in the Warlingham area.
But the scheme has run into fierce opposition from Warlingham residents who have drawn up a petition intended for the area’s Surrey County Councillor David Hodge, Leader of the County Council.
According to Press statements, the proposal, being drawn up by the county council in conjunction with local developer Asprey Homes, would involve expanding the school from one form to two forms of entry in state-of-the-art new buildings with more outside play space than it currently has. It would also mean local children no longer having to travel to schools further away.
The school is heavily oversubscribed and unable to expand on its current site.
This proposal would also involve providing new homes near the planned new school, which would help fund the school development. The school’s existing site would be retained by the county council which would work with Tandridge District Council to ascertain the best use of it for the local area.
The site being considered for the proposed scheme is the Greenacres site, on the Limpsfield Road in Warlingham, around half a mile away from where the school is now.
Greenacres is identified in Tandridge District Council’s Draft Local Plan as a potential site for development and the relocation and expansion of Warlingham Village Primary .
As the Local Plan is only at draft stage, any planning application for a school on the site would need to demonstrate very special circumstances as it is on Green Belt land.
Stuart Mitchenall, chairman of the school strategy board for Warlingham Village School, said: “The governors of the school and representatives from the GLF Schools Multi-Academy Trust are in dialogue with officers from Surrey County Council regarding the additional demand for places in the Tandridge area. We are keen to explore the options available and would ensure any solution maintains the quality of provision we currently offer at Warlingham Village.
“We place a high value on the role our school plays within the local village community and are committed to retaining this. We would aim to work together to ensure the enhanced facilities retain the existing advantages the school offers.”
A planning application is expected to be made to Tandridge District Council later this year. There would need to be a public consultation and approval from the Secretary of State for Education before any move to expand or relocate the school could go ahead.
Councillor Martin Fisher, Leader of Tandridge District Council, said: “We will be pleased to see a scheme which will deliver new school places for local children in an area where people struggle to send their children to a school nearby. Improving the infrastructure is one of the key aims of this Council and the draft Local Plan has identified school place requirements for Warlingham.
“When considering a detailed planning application we will need to carefully balance the need for more school places with the need to get an acceptable scheme on what is Green Belt land.”
However, with a Save Warlingham Village Primary School petition and a Facebook page of protest in their armoury residents and parents of children attending the school have sent Councillor Hodge the message that the idea of transferring the school to the Greenacres site has never been discussed with the community.
And the petition has outlined major concerns for the new site including:
* Detrimental impact on the catchment area of Warlingham East, Chelsham & Farleigh, who may no longer be able to attain a place, or walk to their local school (current catchment of WVPS in 2017/18 & 2018/19 is 500 meters).
* An increase in traffic and congestion around an area which already has a 2 form entry primary school within 1/4 mile of the proposed new school. This school (Hamsey Green) is undersubscribed currently and should be invested in, providing schooling for existing local children and those who will be coming to Warlingham West within the proposed housing development in the village.
* Threat to child safety – there will be nearly 2000 children aged 4-16 crossing a very busy road every day. How is this risk going to be mitigated?
* Removal of well-used Sports Ground facilities at Greenacres and the John Fisher club , which are currently on the Green Belt land, which is proposed to be removed and allocated for housing development and the new school. Where will these be re-accommodated within the local community?
The petition concludes: “We believe there is a viable option to retain the school building and increase the capacity of the school to a two-form entry on the existing site, meeting the needs of the local population. If we aren’t able to stop this closure and ‘relocation’, then 100+ years of history and a valuable resource for the village will be lost.
“If the school does need to be moved, after the exploration and clarification of all viable options, then we strongly feel that the location of a new school on the Greenacres site is grossly unsuitable and should be reconsidered.“
Councillor Hodge said: “When I became a county councillor in 2005 I pushed for new school buildings for Tatsfield Primary School because I knew it would make a big difference to the children. I didn’t want their chances of success to be hindered by a lack of facilities and I’ve seen the huge benefits the new building has brought to local children.
“I believe in children receiving a rounded education at local schools to give them the very best start in life. I’m now working hard to make sure that Warlingham Village Primary – an excellent school – gets a new building with great facilities and lots of outside space and playing fields.
“This well-regarded and over-subscribed school would be able to expand from one form of entry to two so more local children can benefit from the outstanding education it offers and would no longer have to travel to schools further away.”
The protesters are hosting a public meeting at La Botija Tapas on Warlingham Green on September 12 at 8pm.