Campaigners battle on but Durand Academy still not open at Stedham

A bus that got stuck in Stedham CONTRIBUTED PICTURE SUS-141029-100843001
A bus that got stuck in Stedham CONTRIBUTED PICTURE SUS-141029-100843001

CAMPAIGNERS are drawing up their battle lines to fight plans for a weekly boarding school at Stedham.

Villagers have already raised £45,000 towards the £80,000 needed to put their case in front of a government planning inspector early in the new year when the Durand Academy’s appeal will be heard.

A bus that got stuck in Stedham CONTRIBUTED PICTURE SUS-141029-100833001

A bus that got stuck in Stedham CONTRIBUTED PICTURE SUS-141029-100833001

The academy announced it is appealing after the South Downs National Park Authority’s decision to refuse permission for a 375-pupil school on the former St Cuthman’s site.

Chairman of Woolbeding with Redford Parish Council Anne Reynolds said villagers are pulling together to raise the money needed for Durand’s ‘ill-conceived and flawed project’.

“We are working alongside the South Downs National Park Authority, and an enquiry will be held in February,” she said.

Last week, three parishes –Stedham with Iping, Milland, and Woolbeding with Redford – met to discuss the enquiry.

Campaigners have so far submitted a statement of case to the Planning Inspectorate, with input from a traffic and a planning consultant and their own barrister, which has cost around £25,000.

Mrs Reynolds added: “The fact that we have managed to raise an incredible £45,000 from the community goes to show the strength of local feeling against this ill-conceived and flawed project.”

In August, Durand said the first cohort of Year 9 students would arrive in September.

But there is still no sign of pupils at the site.

A spokesman for the academy told the Observer: “We are still making some finishing touches to the building and looking forward to pupils starting at St Cuthman’s very soon.”

Resident Adrian Hearle says the school’s intentions are ‘misleading’.

“We shall see if the school finally opens after half term, although I note they are still advertising for a boarding school matron.

“With only a maximum of 70 places and currently no planning permission for any expansion, I think it misleading when it states in a document that ‘Durand Academy offers families the security of knowing they have a place in an outstanding school.’ What have Durand actually told the parents about where the children will go to school next year, even if they do manage to open next week?”

Villagers have voiced concerns that coaches transporting pupils will cause disruption on narrow country roads.

After a bus got stuck at a junction in Stedham over the weekend, resident Debbie Chalton said: “The bus stuck got on the island at the junction of The Street and School Lane.

“This may be useful for the St Cuthman’s campaign to highlight that large vehicles, with drivers who do not know the area, will get stuck and lost more often.

This caused significant disruption as we had to get out of the village through Woolbeding, a detour that another large vehicle could not do.”

Campaigners are now holding a Save Our Park prize draw to raise the extra £35,000 needed for their appeal.

Mrs Reynolds added: “Individuals have donated prizes for the 15,000 tickets on sale through Mike and Lesley Reynolds, in Woolbeding, who can be contacted on 01730 814258.

“There is a fantastic array of prizes including tickets for the 2015 Cowdray Park Polo Gold Cup, tickets for a Chelsea FC game, a day’s sailing, champagne, theatre vouchers and tickets for the Royal Albert Hall.”