Having attended the information session about the latest plans for the proposed new Bannerdale Secondary School, on behalf of Carter Knowle and Millhouses Community Group, we are better-informed but no more convinced by the plans.
When this secondary school was first proposed in 2015, it was to be on the Holt House site, sharing it with an expanded primary school. That was clearly nonsense – far too crowded, and wrong for children of all ages to be sharing so small a site. Then the cabinet decided it would go on the Bannerdale car park – also much too small, but also built on deep landfill and legally green space. Now it is to be on the field to the west of the access road – certainly bigger, but also landfill, and also green space.
The one site that virtually all those consulted agreed would be the best site – the Bannerdale Centre site – has regularly been dismissed by the council as ‘reserved for housing’. As a group we have consistently said the council is trying to squeeze too much on to the site – housing, and a large school, while promising to ‘protect the green space’.
Despite these reservations the council is pushing ahead with this project, although the plans revealed at the session demonstrate that we and others were right. They can’t get all that on to the one site – something has to give. And as predicted, it is the green space that is being lost. A planning application for the school is due soon, where the loss of the green space will be a serious issue.
Recent events have only added to the issues. The Silverdale Multi-Academy Trust has pulled out of sponsoring the new school, and the Football Association has pulled out of the project to refurbish the football pitches. During the consultation last autumn there were also many voices sceptical of the need for a new school – which will supply 900 places even before a sixth-form is set up. It is still far from clear where these 900 pupils will come from.
If Coun Jackie Drayton is serious in her wish ‘to work with partners to see the vision for excellent education realised’ then that vision had better become a much broader one, and her definition of partners a lot more inclusive, if all these issues are to be satisfactorily dealt with.