St Cuthman’s plan set to face a battle

Residents of Redford and Woolbeding have voted to fight plans to build a boarding school for disadvantaged children in the former St Cuthman’s School at Stedham.

Although the school is in the parish of Stedham, the main access is from the Woolbeding to Redford road.

At a packed meeting in Redford village hall, residents gave Woolbeding with Redford parish councillors a clear message to oppose the expected planning application from the Durand Academy to turn the former St Cuthman’s site into a state boarding school for 600 pupils.

Chairman Anne Reynolds told the Observer: “A unanimous vote was given that the parish council should resist the proposed development on the grounds that the site is unsuitable for a school of such magnitude.”

She said the most major concerns raised by residents centred on the restricted access to the site from all directions.

“The access routes are through narrow lanes with very few passing places and the entrance to St Cuthman’s is severely restricted and on a dangerous bend.

“Increased traffic volume and its attendant pollution is also a cause for alarm.”

Mrs Reynolds said those at the meeting felt the large development proposed would place a huge strain on utility services which were already poor in the area.

“The immediate local environment includes ancient woodland, wet meadows, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Site of Nature Conservation Interest, and the meeting was keen that these features remain protected.”

Mrs Reynolds said those at the meeting were not opposed to such a school in principle, but they felt that there could be several other local sites which would be more appropriate for the academy.

Greg Martin, executive head of Durand Academy, has agreed to talk to residents at the council’s annual parish meeting at 7pm on Monday, March 26.

Concerns were also expressed at a public meeting organised by Stedham with Iping Parish Council before Christmas.

Parish council Chris Morgan said they were generally in favour but had reservations about the logistics.