Winnersh campaigners say school should never have been built

Published: 11 Aug 2013 09:000 comments

OUTRAGED residents living next to an empty school they say should never have been built believe the situation is "ludicrous."

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The new Wheatfield primary school at Winnersh Farm will not open until September 2014 after just three people applied to go there.

Plans to build the school - which Wokingham Borough Council said would help cater for the increasing number of children in the area - were vehemently opposed by residents who said it would cause a flood risk and create dangerous traffic problems and extra noise.

However, the school, which has a 210-pupil capacity, is still due to be completed next month - with no firm plans for it to be used until next year.

Christine Rodriguez, who lives in Woodward Close, said: "I would say that the latest update from Wokingham Borough Council on the new schools is so ludicrous and outrageous, that I would say 'unbelievable', but I am not surprised, just outraged.

"I asked on more than one occasion, both at the public meetings regarding the schools and in emails to the Council, for proof that a school in Winnersh was really needed and why therefore the plans were being rushed through.

"The question was completely dismissed and swept under the carpet.

"We have to put up with a summer of disruption and destruction in our neighbourhood, all because the Council insisted on rushing it through."

She described the number of applicants for the school as "dismally low" - with the other new primary school at Smith's Walk, in Woosehill, only offering 19 children places for when it opens next month - including two of the kids from Wheatfield.

Mrs Rodriguez said she feared the empty building could be used for anything - which could lead to increased traffic.

However Cllr Charlotte Haitham Taylor, executive member for children's services at the Council, said: "We have no plans yet for the temporary use of the school for a year, but are of course very mindful of any implications, such as traffic, would have on the residents living nearby."

Both schools will be run by GLF Schools and Pauline Maddison, interim strategic director children's services at Wokingham Borough Council, said: "Both we and GLF Schools believe this is the best way forward for the children. They would not benefit or thrive from being in an educational environment with so few of them.

"The fact we had 70 expressions of interest confirms the new schools were needed."

The council said the reason for the low numbers was the "significant delay" by the Department for Education in naming its preferred education provider GLF Schools - which meant parents accepted offers at other schools.

A DfE spokesperson said: "The claim that the delay to the opening of Wheatfield is down to the department is simply not true.

"In fact, Wokingham council only put forward their preferred sponsor in March, which did not allow enough time to establish the new school before September."

However, Cllr Haitham Taylor hit back and said: "Throughout this process we have followed the Department of Education's procedures and protocols for setting up academies and at all times were in discussions with them."

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