Parish council says it “always fully supported” new development for Watermore School

August 31 2018

Parish council says it “always fully supported” new development for Watermore School

Frampton Cotterell Parish Council has welcomed the approval of plans for a new building for Watermore School, saying its support was “never in any doubt”.
During the process of the new school buildings being approved for the Meadow Site, where it will accommodate all 420 pupils, the parish council had attempted to get the Victorian Brockeridge school building Grade II listed. It wanted to safeguard the old building, which is on the infant site, and is due for re-development for housing.
But because the development plans for the Woodend Road site was a hybrid application, including both new housing and the school building, they had to object to the development in full.
The issue became party-political, with Toby Savage, the Conservative leader of South Gloucestershire Council, accusing the Liberal Democrats on the parish council of causing delays.
Naomi Bibi, Parish Council clerk, said the council had “always fully supported” the new school, although “It’s a fact that has been ‘sadly misconstrued and misrepresented”.  
The new buildings for Watermore School will now be built with up to 5 houses in the part of the grounds which back onto local shops.  The Victorian Brockeridge School building is to be converted into 6 flats with up to 16 houses also on the site.
Speaking on behalf of the council, Parish Clerk Ms Bibi said: "Frampton Cotterell Parish Council has always fully supported a new school being built - this fact was never in any doubt as far as the Council was concerned, although is a fact that has been sadly misconstrued and misrepresented.”
“Indeed, the Council sought to highlight the original Trust Deeds which state that all, and really all, proceeds from the sale of the original Brockeridge School must go back into the development of a new school for the children of the village. What Council were also hoping to achieve in the process though, was to protect another area of great community and historic value, hence the application to Historic England, but this was never to the detriment of the new school being built."
Currently the school operates from two sites, with the infants based at the historic Brockeridge School building in Woodend Road, and the juniors at the Meadow site at Lower Stone Close. But the Victorian building has a backlog of repairs, working across two sites has caused  operational issues, and by 2019 the school will have reached capacity.
The parish council applied to Historic England to get the Brockeridge building Grade II listed, as although it’s listed locally, they were advised that without a national listing it couldn’t be given complete protection from development. Because it was a ‘hybrid’ planning application, with the conversion of the Brockeridge school building as well as the sale of the land for housing, the PC had to object to the whole application.  
The Conservative group on South Gloucestershire Council argued that a local listing was enough protection and gave reassurances that the Victorian building would be preserved during any conversion into flats. It was concerned that a Grade II listing could scupper any potential sale of the property and land for redevelopment.  
This was a requirement of a central government grant for £195,000 which was provided from the Land Release Fund by Homes England.  Homes England assists local authorities to make use of public land to pay for projects which may not otherwise come to fruition.
The MP for Thornbury and Yate, Luke Hall, who represents Frampton Cotterell, wrote to Secretary of State, raising his own concerns about the impact of a potential national listing.  Councillor Toby Savage, Leader of South Gloucestershire Council who is also responsible for schools, asked the leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Claire Young, to clarify her party’s position at a full council meeting, and to join him in asking the parish council to withdraw its listing application.  
Claire Young refused. She said: “My local Liberal Democrat colleagues and I are very supportive of Watermore School. We don’t accept the premise that listing the old infant school building is incompatible with building the new school on one site in the time scales currently proposed.”
“I believe that Frampton Cotterell Parish Council has acted entirely reasonably in applying to Historic England for the listing of the old infant school building – a move which they only undertook after first seeking advice from the South Gloucestershire Conservation Officer.”
When Historic England rejected the listing application, Cllr Toby Savage said: “I am relieved the Liberal Democrat attempt to undermine Watermore School’s evolution has failed. This project will be a huge investment into education for the area, providing a fantastic 420 primary school places for families in the Frampton Cotterell community.”
“I want to thank Historic England for their fair and unbiased decision on this unnecessary application and look forward to working with Watermore School, parents and governors in progressing plans for their new home. But this relief should not have been necessary, as the Liberal Democrats could have recognised the risk and the delay their actions have taken to the planning application and I am frustrated they chose to act in such a reckless manner.”
Pat Hockey, Liberal Democrat councillor on Frampton Cotterell Parish Council, rejected Mr Savage’s position. She said: “Any attempt to get it listed was unanimous from the parish council and cross party and nothing to do with anybody trying to stop the new school going ahead.”
Due to the loss of land for public use, the application now must be rubber stamped by the secretary of state.  Two multi use games areas (known as MUGAs) will be provided which the community will be able to use.  The whole project is expected to cost £6.68 million, with work likely to continue past it’s expected opening in September 2019.
In their report recommending approval, council planning officers said: “There is an increased demand for primary school places locally. The proposed school will provide the necessary additional classroom spaces and will allow the flexibility to expand all year groups to 60 pupils, as required in the future.”  It said it was ‘regrettable’ that two pitches will be lost.