I viewed the plans for a new school at Ponteland on Saturday. It seems that there are many who are not aware of what is being proposed, nor of the extraordinarily short consultation period before the decision is taken early in the new year.
The plans include a proposal to close Darras Hall First School and transfer its 450 pupils to the new all-age campus located far outside the present village. Currently, many of these pupils are able to walk or cycle to school. Under the proposals, all these children will need to be taken to school.
Whatever happened to sustainable planning which dictates that facilities be built so that people can access them without recourse to vehicular travel?
To make matters worse, the new arrangements will mean that all the traffic generated by the 2,500 pupils will have to go out onto the A696 or B6545 rather than access it directly from Darras Hall as is the case with the middle and high schools at present.
Can this possibly be regarded as good planning? While no one would disagree that Ponteland needs a new high school, surely the rational solution would be to rebuild on or near the current site.
The volume of extra traffic shouldn’t be underestimated. While many pupils currently attending Darras Hall First will be eligible for bus travel, the idea that parents will be happy to put a four or five-year-old on a bus to a complex where 2,500 youngsters up to 19 years old and hundreds of adult staff are arriving together only goes to show that the men who run Northumberland County Council have no understanding of the safeguarding of children.
Darras Hall First School is flanked by a small array of shops which are at their busiest at the start and end of the school day. One wonders about the viability of these shops, which are relied upon by many older residents, should the school close.
It is hard to imagine a more environmentally and socially damaging proposal than that which the council has come up with.
Unfortunately, we have only been given until Tuesday, November 24, to raise objections. I do hope residents will make their feelings known about these absurd plans.