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Thatcham councillors raise no objection to Parsons Down Infant School demolition

Head of governors says project will provide tremendous opportunities

John Herring

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

01635 886633

Parsons Down Infant School Thatcham could be demolished

TOWN councillors have raised no objections to plans to demolish Parsons Down Infant School.

West Berkshire Council has applied to demolish the building and replace it with an artificial sports pitch.

The Parsons Down Partnership (PDP) of the infant and junior schools, both rated good by Ofsted, is split across two neighbouring sites.

The district council is proposing one form entry (1FE) infant facilities at the junior school

The existing infant playground will become a wildflower meadow.

Chairwoman of governors Marilyn Cornwell said that the plans presented “an exciting future”.

She said: “The plan to move from two sites to one site is a terrific opportunity.

“To have the school all on one site is tremendous.

“It gives great opportunities for the children and us with the development of the site with the MUGA [mixed use games area] and wildflower meadow.

“Both will be tremendous assets for the school and it’s an exciting future for us.”

The plans list a parcel of land to the east of the school, bordering Ashbourne Way and Cygnet Close, as “surplus land as existing”.

Speaking at a meeting last week, John Boyd (Lib Dem, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham) said: “I don’t think any land in a primary school would be surplus.

“The concern is that that could be sectioned off for something else at a later stage.”

Former primary school headteacher Paul Field (Green, Thatcham Central) said he had spoken to Mrs Cornwell.

He said: “It’s the school’s ambition to keep the green space as a resource for the school, they are very strongly in favour of that.”

West Berkshire Council said it had submitted the plans as the PDP was facing the financial burden of two sites, but with reduced pupil numbers, owing to demographic changes in its catchment area.

The school has capacity for 630 pupils, but currently has 403 on roll and its combined pupil capacity was reduced from three classes to two in September 2019.

Mark Lillycrop (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said: “It’s very sad that this has happened with Parsons Down.

“It’s a very fine school and it’s a great shame that the demographic changes have affected the school in this way, but this is a very imaginative way to use the space.”

Councillors also raised the potential of 97 homes being built on the Lower Way field and their impact on the school, along with the new housing at the former Pound Lane depot site.

Mr Field said he had been told that the junior school had capacity for a 2FE and that the Lower Way housing had been considered in the plans.

He added that Spurcroft Primary School also had capacity.

Planning documents say that the new artificial pitch will be used by the school during school hours and by the community after school hours.

But following his conversation with the school, Mr Field said: “The MUGA pitch was not expected to be open for public use outside of school hours, which again would be a concern of the community I’m sure.

“They don’t have any external letters at the school so they don’t let out any of their space.”

Town councillors raised no objection subject to the surplus land becoming amenity land if it was released from education use.

The district council has also applied to change the use of land to the south of junior school from open space (highways) to education in a separate application.

Town councillors raised no objection to this scheme.

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