Thu, 04 Jan 2018
WEST Berkshire Council is to pull the plug on plans for a new primary school in Theale unless Theale Parish Council yields to its ultimatum.
The council announced today (Thursday) that it was abandoning plans for the £8m school as it is no closer to securing the land it wants to build on.
Instead, it will create additional school places elsewhere.
The project has been beset by difficulties as the the North Street playing fields, where the council wants to build the school, is owned by the Englefield Estate and leased to Theale Parish Council.
The parish council is yet to decide on relinquishing the land to the district council, owing to concerns about the location of the school and loss of football pitches.
Plans for the school were approved in July 2016, with West Berkshire Council saying that changes to the village’s population and the anticipated demand created by future housing meant that more primary school places would be needed.
But the council has said that continuing delays by Theale Parish Council means that the school will no longer be built.
The district council's executive member for children and young people, Lynne Doherty (Con, Northcroft) said: “It is with regret that we have come to the conclusion that there is no realistic prospect now of delivering a new school in Theale.
"It is still our belief that the future education of Theale children is best met by a new school and we are deeply disappointed that despite so much hard work our plans cannot progress any further.
"We have the money, land and planning permission to deliver a new school and the support of the community for our plans.
“The provision of the land was agreed subject to Theale Parish Council giving up its lease and accepting replacement land.
"It said a decision would be made after we got planning permission for the replacement playing field. This was secured in July last year and despite this no decision has been made on the lease.
"We have reluctantly accepted there is no more we can do to build the new school.
“Local people are supportive of our plans and I know they will share our frustration and disappointment. However, we have a duty to provide more primary school places and we cannot wait any longer.
"Our only option now is to increase capacity at other local schools and we will be drawing up our plans to do so in the coming months.”
Theale Primary School was built to have one new class of 30 pupils each year.
But the council said that due to an increase in demand it has been using temporary accommodation to take up to 45 new pupils each year while a permanent solution has been found which would allow for two new classes each year (60 new pupils).
Arrangements will be made for Theale Primary School to return to an intake of 30 new pupils each year and those pupils whose applications are unsuccessful will be allocated places at other schools in the area.
West Berkshire Council has written to Theale Parish Council confirming its decision to halt work on the new school.
It includes an offer to reconsider the decision only if confirmation that the land will be released is received by the end of January 2018.
The letter to Theale Parish Council can be read here http://bit.ly/2An5fjF
West Berkshire Council voted in 2016 to press ahead with a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to unlock the five acres of land.
But it has also decided to abandon the CPO saying that it could take several years to complete through the legal system and at a considerable cost to the taxpayer.
Theale Parish Council has been approached for comment and for more reaction on this story see next week's Newbury Weekly News.