THE South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) and villagers are going into battle to recoup the costs of fighting a planning appeal against the Durand Academy.
The academy, which currently has 48 pupils at the former St Cuthman’s building in Stedham, was appealing to a government planning inspector after proposals for a 375 pupil state weekly boarding school were refused last December.
But now it has withdrawn and says it is preparing a new planning application which it hopes will not ‘attract so much local opposition’.
Chairman of Woolbeding with Redford Parish Council, Anne Reynolds, said: “We hope Durand has finally realised their ill-conceived scheme will not work and there is no need for it in our national park.
“We will continue to press the government for answers on how this whole project has been managed, and are delighted the National Audit Office and public accounts committee are reviewing Durand and its governance. We have spent around £40,000.
“We hope to recover some of our costs from Durand who withdrew the day before the preliminary hearing.
“Once we know Durand’s future plans, we will consider how to return monies to our supporters.”
Chichester MP Andrew Tyrie has requested a meeting with Lord Nash, parliamentary under secretary of state for schools, but has been told the minister is ‘too busy owing to diary commitments’.
Mr Tyrie said: “I have written to Lord Nash to express deep disappointment as he is unwilling to meet with me to discuss constituents concerns about Durand.
“They’re making points that deserve consideration and they should be heard.”
SDNPA director of planning Tim Slaney, said: “We are moving to recover the considerable costs incurred to the public purse in preparing for this appeal.”
A Durand spokesman said: “We make no apology for basing our decision on what we believe will deliver the best outcomes for the children.
“We are confident we can rework the proposition effectively.”
For the in-depth Behind the Headlines feature on the Durand Academy, see this week’s Observer (December 18).