CONCERNS have been raised over the impact the refurbishment of the Four Houses Corner travellers’ site outside Burghfield Common may have on children’s education.
Residents will have to vacate their homes and move to temporary accommodation while the renovation, which is estimated to take between 12 to 18 months, is completed.
At a meeting last week, West Berkshire Council said that every effort would be made to allow the children who live at the site to continue at their current schools, but said it would be dependent on a “wide range of factors”.
The district councillor for the Mortimer ward, Mollie Locke, said she was “very concerned that their education is being disrupted through no fault of their own”.
During the meeting she asked: “How is the process of decanting the residents of Four Houses Corner progressing?”
To which the council’s portfolio holder for planning and housing, Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley), replied: “The decant policy is progressing well and is following the adopted decant policy process.
“I am unable to talk about individual households, but can assure you that a personalised approach is being taken to try and meet the needs of each household, as set out in the decant policy.
“The decant will take a number of months to complete and will be carried out in as sensitive a way as possible, having regard to the need of the households and the council’s needs to progress the project without undue delay.
“It is the intention that residents will have the opportunity to return to the site once the refurbishment is complete.”
Mrs Locke then asked: “I understand that some of them are having a meeting about housing on the 26th, is that correct?
To which Mrs Cole replied: “If you are saying they are meeting on the 26th, I have not been told this, but yes I would expect they will be, because as I have said, we are meeting with the households on a regular basis.
“We are taking into account the availability of the accommodation within the district and trying to meet the preferences of those people who are being decanted from the site as far as we can.
“One household has already been decanted, one household has chosen to leave voluntarily and further houses are due to be decanted in the next couple of weeks.
“Only two of the households on the site have yet to complete the decant form.”
Mrs Locke then asked: “What arrangements are in place so that the children of Four Houses Corner can continue in their current place of education?”
To which the council’s portfolio holder for children and young people, Lynne Doherty, said: “As far as possible we will seek to enable children to continue in their current school.
“But this will be dependent upon a range of factors, including the needs of the wider family and their wishes, availability of school places close to the temporary addresses and whether a child is in a key year of schooling, for example if they are about to do their GCSEs or exams.”
Mrs Locke responded by questioning whether affected children would be offered free home-to-school transport.
Mrs Doherty replied: The decant policy grants discretion to pay for the home-to-school transport in order to minimise disruption to the education of children who are temporarily decanted.
“Such decisions will depend upon the length of the decant, availability of schools close to the temporary address and other key factors.”