SCHOOL: Not the right site to re-build

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Andrea Smith’s letter (Morpeth Herald, May 11) states that there are a lot of unanswered questions that need answering about the proposed developments at County Hall, Morpeth.

Here are some of the answers, but perhaps not what she was expecting.

A call-in will only “scupper” the proposed school if it is found to be in conflict with the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan (MNP), which we believe is the case.

South Morpeth Coalition (SMC) is not opposed to the principle of a replacement school for Goosehill, but we do not support this particular proposal on this site.

One of the reasons for that position is that the proposed school re-build offers no increase in pupil capacity whatsoever so would do nothing to solve the problems about school places, over which Ms Smith is rightly concerned.

The new council administration has stated that County Hall will be staying in Morpeth. As the building was to be partially demolished for the school playing area, the proposal cannot be delivered as planned.

An alternative site for the school could be the former fire station at Loansdean, currently promoted as an edge-of-town retail park, which SMC and the Chamber of Trade are also opposing.

Even then, the school would be situated at the very southern edge of its huge catchment area, which covers almost the whole of the town.

The master plan required by the MNP should also look at increasing school capacity to the north of the town, for example at St George’s. That would resolve Ms Smith’s concerns about the bussing of kids.

SMC’s planning consultant was formerly employed by the county council in a senior position in planning, but left long before these redevelopment plans were proposed so has no conflict of interest.

SMC is not ashamed of our actions. We are proud to stand up for the MNP and expect our case to be successful at the public inquiry brought about by the call-in.

It seems that Home Group did not have that confidence in its own case, having dropped out of the pursuit of the housing application.

We wish Ms Smith and all those in Stannington every success for their own Neighbourhood Plan.

David Holden