A campaign opposing plans to relocate Darras Hall First School to a new super campus in Ponteland has received significant support.
Joining those speaking out against the move are the school’s governors, the neighbouring United Reformed Church and businesses in the precinct opposite that are deeply concerned at the potential loss of trade.
As part of its future vision for the area, Northumberland County Council’s administration wants to provide new buildings for the first school, Ponteland High School and Ponteland Middle School.
Along with public leisure facilities, they would be situated on land to the east of the existing Pont High and Middle schools – close to Cheviot View and near the roundabout which includes the turn off to the Dobbies garden centre.
This site is two miles from the first school’s current location on Broadway and an action group of parents staged a protest last week.
Members claim the new site would be too far away for the majority of pupils to walk to and there would be major traffic congestion at peak morning and afternoon times, among other concerns.
Rev Joan Ross, minister of Ponteland United Reformed Church, is backing the ‘Don’t Move’ campaign.
Her letter to the council includes the following: ‘The on-going presence of Darras Hall First School on Broadway will ensure diversity of ages among residents and homeowners, a necessary source of customers for local retail businesses on Broadway, and safe pedestrian access to Broadway and its surrounds.
‘I urge the council to include the vital importance of the social community health of children, families and residents of Darras Hall Estate in its review of proposed changes to the provision of schooling in Ponteland and to plan for Darras Hall First School’s continuation on its present Broadway site.’
The school’s governing body has accused the authority of ‘poor communication’ in relation to the proposal.
Its submission adds: ‘Governors feel that removing the school from the current site to an alternative location well outside our catchment will do irreparable damage to the community, remove the important part the school plays in the community and the children’s sense of security, well-being and identification with their community.’
The action group has delivered a box full of signed petitions and objection letters to County Hall.
Coun Scott Dickinson, business chair at the county council, said: “We have been working with the schools since May on this proposal and they have been directly involved in coming up with the design ideas – which include completely separate areas, including separate play areas, for each of the schools.
“Following earlier responses from the schools about the impact on traffic and access to the site, studies are already taking place.
“Once this stage of consultation is over, we will review the proposal based on the feedback we receive.”