Campaigners fighting Stedham school scheme

Durand Academy school view

Durand Academy school view

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MORE than 130 people packed Milland Village Hall to voice their objections against plans to turn the former St Cuthman’s School, on the edge of Stedham, into a new boarding school for socially-disadvantaged children.

The meeting was chaired by Anne Reynolds, chairman of Woolbeding with Redford Parish Council who told the meeting the campaign group was fighting the ‘Surreyfication’ of West Sussex.

“This is a test case for the national park authority,” she told the meeting, “and we really must stop it.”

Mrs Reynolds described the scheme to bus up to 600 13- to 18-year-olds from Stockwell in London to the Stedham site, where they would board four nights a week, as a ‘back of an envelope scheme’ which had many flaws.

An artist’s impression of the school is pictured on the front page.

Campaigners fighting the scheme have employed traffic and planning consultants Kevin Archard and Paul Butt.

Mr Archard said traffic consultants had identified concerns which had not been addressed by the applicants. “Fundamental problems associated with highways and transportation have not been addressed,” he said.

He believed transporting 600 children 58 miles to and from London at the beginning and end of every week was contrary to both national and local transport policies.

He also told the meeting the preferred routes identified were not suitable for coaches.

The developers’ transport strategy was, said Mr Archard, ‘convoluted, onerous, unenforceable and impractical’.

VOLUME OF TRAFFIC

He was also concerned about the volume of traffic during the construction period which would he said amount to some 80 vehicle movements a day.

Mr Butt told the meeting: “The main issue as far as I can see is whether the benefit of the development, the need for the school, outweighs all the harm which would be caused to the site in the national park and to the Grade II-listed building on the site.”

He urged people to write to the park authority setting out their own experiences of the site ‘and giving an understanding of the importance of the site to the community’.

Objectors to the scheme, who have been told the pupils will not be allowed off the site during the week, said they could not therefore see the point of bringing them to the rural setting.

They have also questioned the Durand Academy’s running costs estimates of £0.7m a year.

Experts have told them these will be more like £2.6m a year and campaigners said they feared the school would fail on financial grounds.

“We have got a white elephant here,” said one speaker. “What happens if it fails?

“The next application will be for housing.”

Speakers questioned the expertise and numbers of staff planned at the new school which was described as ‘a Travelodge approach to boarding’.