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The Tories and a new school……

September 12, 2011

We have never opposed a new school for Surbiton. This is clearly demonstrated by the following post from February 2009. As Cllr Liz Green indicated last week, we had, and still have deep environmental concerns, which we share with local residents, about building it on the Oakhill site. These concerns are also expressed quite clearly elsewhere on this website.

newprimary A group of local parents have launched a petition to pressurise the Royal
Borough of Kingston into providing sufficient primary school places in
Surbiton.

Please sign the “Local Schools for Local Children” petition at the following link: http://www.epetitions.kingston.gov.uk

(and please email the petition link to your friends and neighbours as well).

We want the council to:-

  1. Add places in local primary schools to ensure no Surbiton child starting school in 2009 has to travel for more than 30 minutes (on foot or by public transport) to get to school.
  2. Adjust admissions policies for 2010 onwards to make schools take into account how far a child will have to travel if they don’t get offered a place at their nearest schools.
  3. Add capacity in the local area for the long term to make sure that this problem doesn’t keep happening every year.

This year there are 300 more applicants than places originally available in the borough. Last year there was a shortfall of over 200.

Surbiton is the worst affected area. The problem is plainly getting worse. We need a permanent solution, not a series of last minute temporary “bulge classes”.

The Cranes Park / Cheyne Hill / North Berrylands area is no longer covered by the catchment area of any of the four local Surbiton schools.   Uuntil very recently it seemed as if RBK were hellbent on forcing children in this area to schools as far away as Knollmead, New Malden and Malden Manor.

Political pressure has hopefully persuaded RBK to provide more bulge classes in three out of the four Surbiton primary schools for this year’s intake.

But what will they do for the next four or five years when the Surbiton schools run out of space to accommodate bulge classes, and any new buildings have yet to be completed? If you have any children aged under two, there is a very real possibility that you will be forced to travel well outside Surbiton to find a school place.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul Sloan permalink
    September 13, 2011 12:04 pm

    I actually wrote that piece and posted it on your site to highlight the petition. The petition was on behalf of local parents and was strictly non party political (although Tory parliamentary candidate Helen Whately did provide administrative support). I was grateful for Helen’s assistance in lobbying the council to highlight the then critical shortage of primary school places. I sat beside her when she challenged the council to provide a permanent solution.

    Well since then the council HAVE actually provided a permanent solution. Our Lib Dem MP, Ed Davey did brilliant work to raise the issue at national level, getting an emergency parliamentary debate and securing emergency funding. The council wisely decided to build our much needed new school on the only available site that
    1. was large enough to accommodate the numbers required.
    2. was located closest to the parts of Surbiton not covered by the catchment areas of any neighbouring schools.
    3. could be developed within a reasonable timeframe

    I’ve been shocked at the opposition to the hospital site from Conservative councillors since the plans were announced. One minute they were helping parents to campaign for a new school, the next they were campaigning against the only feasible option that could be deliverd by 2012, without any credible funded plans for an alternative.

    To recap, in a leaked email to Helen Whately, the Conservative Education spokesman, Dennis Doe described the hospital plans as silly. He said that if the Conservatives were elected, he would stop the hospital site school.

    His halfbaked alternative of using the King Charels resource centre fell short on so many fronts:
    1. the site was too small, not meeting Govt minimum size guidelines.
    2. it would have necessitated the relocation of adult education facilites, with no funding available to move it anywhere else!
    3. even if funding was available (it isn’t), then the earliest delivery date of the (too-small) school would have been 2015 at the earliest.
    4. it was a greater distance from the problem areas, forcing more parents to drive to it, increasing congestion.

    The Surrey Comet covered the Conservative Education spokesman’s views in this linked story

    http://www.surreycomet.co.uk/news/5062444.Surbiton_primary_school_could_be_delayed/

    Nick Kilby stated “Unless the officers could not prove [Coun Doe] was wrong, I think he would be right to being forward plans for the first executive to move forward with the King Charles Centre” .

    On this website, Nick then goes on to say that “Dennis has no need to backtrack as he has never been on the wrong track”, attempting to spin Dennis’ forthright rejection of the “silly ideas of building [the school] on the hospital site” as the altogether different issue of “the problem of the Lib Dems not having a Plan B”. Nick now describes the hospital site as clearly a good option – surely the polar opposite of his spokesman’s views.

    To me, this stinks of two faced opportunism. Local Conservatives can’t have it both ways guys, you’re either on the side of the nimbys, or the parents. You either support Surbiton’s four year olds having a permanent Surbiton school place in 2012, or you don’t.

    The hospital site is and always was the only site that could deliver the new school. These places should been available when first needed, way back in 2008. A four year wait is long enough, why couldn’t you just have supported the plans and moved on?

    A year on from my last posting on this site, you still haven’t managed to come up with any fully funded credible alternative. But maybe you never really wanted to, hoping that the nimby protests would in some way hurt the Surbiton Hill Lib Dem candidates? hoping that if enough fear uncertainty and doubt was spread about the new school, you might bag some protest votes. If that’s the case, it disgusts me that people would play politics with four year olds’ education.

    Thanks for the help you gave with the petition back in 2009, but no thanks for your behaviour since.

    regards
    Paul Sloan

    • September 13, 2011 1:07 pm

      Dear Paul
      I would remind you that, in December 2006, you wrote to this site advocating selling off the hospital site for housing and doing likewise to the place in Browns Road known as Newent House. Your contribution is there for all to see in the archive. In fact I’ve published it on the Home page so you won’t have to look far. Aren’t you glad that we didn’t follow up your ideas?
      We have not played politics with the education of 4 year olds. If we had, we could simply have gone along with the flow and buried our conscientious concerns about this site, as you suggest we should. John Ayles and his agent have played politics with this issue throughout the by-election campaign, making fantastic accusations about our ‘wanting to sell the hospital site for housing’ YOUR IDEA, not ours!) and ‘kick old people out of their homes’ (guess whose idea again!) etc.Nick has dealt with these defamatory statements elsewhere as you will see. If you haven’t read his post on the matter I invite you to scroll down the homepage and do so now.
      As a former councillor for the ward I have to tell you that I could never have supported the use of this site for the building of so large a school as this, largely because the site itself is too small to accommodate satisfactorily all the functions it is being asked to perform. The building, moreover, results in environmental damage to what gives Oakhill its name and character and this in a Council-designated Conservation Area. The accesses to this site are notoriously difficult; the area already attracts heavy traffic at times, partly due to the surgeries and partly to the presence very close by of St. Matthew’s School, which, you will notice, is undergoing further enlargement. As Cllr. David Cunningham (one of the most experienced planners on the Council) stated at Development Control, this development, if proposed by any private developer, would have been very unlikely to have been passed. His approach was on strictly planning grounds. So, as regards this site, was Nick’s and Janet’s and mine.
      Crude political calculation would have led us to bury our reservations and support it as the Lib Dems have done, in spite of reservations about the lack of amenity space on the site expressed by a senior Lib Dem councillor.
      The building of this school on this site became effectively Lib Dem party policy from the moment Ed Davey ‘unveiled’ it as ‘his’ solution and no serious attempts were made thereafter to look at any alternative possibilities for any other reason but to trash them as you have done. We wanted them to enter into open dialogue about the use of this site and other ways in the which the provision we all wanted could be made. But they wouldn’t do that. The nearest they got to it was when a clearly rattled Mr. Davey agreed with me at a public meeting in March last year that ‘of course all possible sites must be looked at’. The PCT, stopped from following your earlier advice, wanted as much money as possible for the extra land and building this big primary school there was the solution to the problem that brought them the best financial return – RBK was to pay ‘top dollar’ for the land, as Mr. Nattrass said. How much I don’t know. Do you?
      Paul, it just so happens that this time the Lib Dems’ party politicking has produced an outcome that you want and at no particular inconvenience to yourself. You call Oakhill residents ‘Nimbies’, but they might respond by dubbing you a ‘biseby’ (build in somebody else’s back yard’. The time may come when you need councillors who will stand by you and defend their constituents and their principles with the tenacity that Nick and I showed over this. I hope you find them!
      Kindest regards, as always.

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