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Two councils clash as row over new school in Theale heats up

District council accuses parish council of "spreading misleading and innacurate information"

Dan Cooper

Dan Cooper


01635 886632

Application for Theale Primary School replacement submitted

WEST Berkshire Council has accused Theale Parish Council of "spreading misleading and innacurate information" over claims it made about the delivery of a new primary school in the village.

The district council wants to build the £7m facility on the North Street playing fields but the parish council has so far refused to relinquish the lease on the land because they feel it is the wrong site for the school.

This prompted West Berkshire Council to issue Theale with a three week ultimatum - release the land or lose your school.

Theale Parish Council released a statement on its website on Wednesday which claimed that West Berkshire Council had not responded to, or acknowledged, a letter it sent inviting discussions to take place.

The full statement read: "Theale Parish Council would like to provide a brief update on the issue of the proposed new primary school.

"Contrary to many reports, Theale Parish Council has not made its decision nor had a vote on whether or not the lease at North Street Playing Fields will be relinquished.

"Theale Parish Council's letter of 30th November 2017 to Nick Carter, CEO, West Berkshire Council, contained a clear offer of further discussions between the two parties.

"No response or acknowledgement to this letter has ever been received.

"Theale Parish Council has now managed to arrange for a private meeting to be held between themselves and representatives from West Berkshire Council.

"This meeting will be chaired by Alok Sharma MP.

"In light of several incidents that have occcurred since West Berkshire Council issued its press release on 4th January 2018, the time and date of this meeting will not be made public beforehand in order that all parish councillors can attend the meeting free from intimidation or abuse."

However, in response to that West Berkshire Council has now released its own statement refuting those claims.

The district council's statement reads: "West Berkshire Council is disappointed by misleading and inaccurate claims made by Theale Parish Council in relation to a project to deliver a new school in the village.

"A project to build a new school in Theale was halted earlier this month following continuing delays by Theale Parish Council in making any decision on whether it would relinquish its lease on vital land without which the school cannot go ahead.

"Yesterday (Wednesday 17 January) Theale Parish Council informed its residents that no response had been received to a letter sent to the Chief Executive of West Berkshire Council and that it contained a clear offer of further discussions on the issue.

"Contrary to the parish council claims, West Berkshire Council received the letter on 19th December – dated 30th November - and formally responded to Theale Parish Council on 4 January.

"Receipt of West Berkshire Council’s letter dated 4th January was acknowledged in writing by Theale Parish Council.

"As well as replying directly to the Council, the open letter was also published to update the local community on the council’s decision to halt the school project and the reasons for doing so.

"There has also been further correspondence on the issue, including between the Chief Executive of West Berkshire Council and the Chair of Theale Parish Council seeking clarification on points made in the response provided on 4 January.

"As a result of this ongoing dialogue a meeting has been arranged for next week between West Berkshire Council, Theale Parish Council and Alok Sharma MP.

"By these actions it will be clear to the public that contrary to Theale Parish Council’s statement, West Berkshire Council has responded to the parish council and generally communicated actively and in detail over the last three weeks.

Refuting the claims by Theale Parish Council, Graham Jones, leader of West Berkshire Council said: “It is disappointing that rather than make a decision on whether to release this land Theale Parish Council is choosing to spread misleading information about a lack of dialogue with us.

"As well as responding to the parish council’s correspondence we have worked hard to be open with the local community about our position and the efforts we have made to deliver a new school for the village.

"It is a shame that we are having to talk about this when we should be talking about the education of future generations of children in the village.

“The letter Theale Parish Council referred to was brief and confirmed only that no formal vote on a decision about the land had been made and that parish councillors were not convinced that best value had been achieved.

"It is frustrating that after months of dialogue they have introduced a new reason to delay making a decision.

"We were invited to discuss the matter further and I hope the meeting next week will help convince the parish council of the merits of building a new school in the village.

“Theale Parish Council seem to be moving deliberately slowly both in making a decision and in its correspondence with us. I would urge them to work with us with the dynamism the situation merits if we are to get to a point when we can move forward.

"Our offer to reconsider our decision to halt the project – if we get assurances this month about the release of the land – still stands and I urge the council to consider it very seriously.”


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