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Council disappointed at school funding loss

But it insists that decision will not impact new primary plans for Theale

Application for Theale Primary School replacement submitted

WEST Berkshire Council has said that it was “surprised and disappointed” to lose out on £1.4m of funding towards a new primary school in Theale.  

As reported by the NWN, the council had sought the funds from the developer of the 325-home development at Lakeside to provide additional classes at the new 315-place school.

However, planning inspector John Felgate deemed the request “unjustified, unnecessary and inappropriate”.

Mr Felgate said that the council had been unable to demonstrate the need for the funding and that the evidence he had seen showed the new school had been planned for 420 places.

Lakeside developer Central Corporation Estates had said that it was being asked to pay twice for the new school through developers’ contributions and the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

It also questioned why it was being asked to pay when the council had secured £7m of government funding for the school.

Mr Felgate said that the council had “failed to recognise the perception of double-charging”. 

A spokesman for West Berkshire Council, Martin Dunscombe, said: “We felt it was unfair to ask local residents to pay for these extra classrooms when planning regulations allow contributions to be sought from developers.” 

He said the three classrooms would be required as the Lakeside development, which includes a further 25 homes granted on appeal at north Lakeside, would bring 80 new pupils to the school.

Mr Dunscombe said that the council would now have to decide how to spend the CIL money.

He said: “It is anticipated that this will be in the region of £2m and as such the council will have to consider whether to spend this largely on one project at the expense of other infrastructure needs or to find the money from existing, hard-pressed council budgets.

“Although it is disappointing, the inspector’s ruling does not impact on our current plans for a new-build, 315-place replacement for Theale Primary School.

“The classrooms required by the development have never been part of our project for a new, improved school to meet the needs of current Theale residents.”

The inspector’s ruling was blasted by Theale’s district councillor Alan Macro (Lib Dem). 

He said: “I am dismayed that the planning inspector has approved these huge developments in Theale, totalling 350 homes, with no specific financial contribution for education.

“I am also aghast that the developer had to resort to Freedom of Information requests to get information out of West Berkshire Council.

“It’s also very worrying that the council seems confused about when required infrastructure should be paid for by a specific development and when it should be funded out of the Community Infrastructure Levy."

Mr Felgate also ruled that the council would have to pay the developers for “an otherwise unnecessary appeal”. 

“What is even more concerning is that the hard-up council is going to have to pay the developers for the extra work they had to perform because of the council’s mistakes,” Mr Macro said. 

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