Durand Academy bid offers a chance to succeed

FIERCE opposition to plans to open a boarding school for inner-city children has been hit head on by a growing group of supporters.

Proposals for the school, which would be built on the former St Cuthman’s site in Stedham, have met with delight from one East Harting resident and teacher, Zoë Williams.

“It’s about inviting children who would not be able to afford a better education,” she said.

“I believe education should be about social modelling. Everyone should be given the opportunity to succeed, which can be hard to do if your feeder schools don’t have the same opportunities.

“Not only that – I strongly believe that when the school is up and running, it will have amazing facilities. I imagine it will forge great links with the primary school.”

The Durand Academy, based in South London is behind the plans, which were unveiled at the end of June. The academy would be used for up to 600 13- to 18-year-olds who would board for four nights a week.

“I feel opposition to this proposal has been short-sighted,” said Zoë.

“These children will be coming in on a Monday morning, and going home on a Friday. There would be minimal impact.”

She said there was a ‘growing group’ of people who feel positively towards the proposal.

“This directly contrasts to what the people who are against it seem to think,” she said.

“The academy has been mindful of the impact on the environment. The whole thing would significantly benefit the community.”

The Rev Chris Boxley, vicar of Heyshott, has also spoken out in support of the proposals, penning a letter to the Daily Telegraph and submitting his opinions to South Downs National Park Planning Authority.

However, the National Trust has added to the escalating controversy surrounding the application. The trust, which owns and manages Woolbeding and Pound Commons which lie north east of the proposed site, wrote in a letter of objection: “Much of the trust’s estate is in this area of high landscape, biodiversity, historical and amenity value within the National Park.

“We do not believe the proposals represent sustainable development. The site is in a relatively remote location far from a railway station with poor access.

“Whilst it is acknowledged the site has been used as an institution until 2004, the former school was on a far more limited scale than that currently proposed.”

The trust also said it was concerned about the impact of increased traffic and the coaches used to transport the pupils will ‘require careful management’.

Jane Arnott, planning advisor for the trust, said: “We do not believe any benefits to the local economy would in any way be sufficient to outweigh the objections. We are not convinced there is no other suitable location for the school.”

The school is the first state primary school to open a boarding school to educate children free-of-charge.