Councillors fight for former school site

Published: 30 Jul 2013 12:00

COUNCILLORS say they will not be bullied into a decision over the future of the former Elvian School site in Southcote.

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Taylor Wimpey was refused permission to build 193 homes on the site last October, on grounds that the land was still needed for educational use, and the developer has lodged an appeal to be heard on September 9.

But a letter read to Reading Borough Council planning applications committee last Wednesday from Geoff Armstrong, director of Armstrong Rigg Planning, acting for Taylor Wimpey, threatened to claim compensation if it loses the appeal and councillors continue to back West Reading Education Network's (WREN) scheme to open a free school on the Elvian site.

He claimed the Education Funding Agency (EFA) is acquiring the DEFRA site in Wensley Road, Coley Park, on behalf of WREN, which wants to open its free secondary school in September next year, and therefore the primary reason for refusal is no longer valid.

Mr Armstrong added: "However in the event that the council sought to defend the reason for refusal number one at appeal the appellants would be forced to consider making an application for an award of costs."

The committee agreed with chairman Cllr Pete Ruheman's suggestion that the decision be deferred to its next meeting on September 4, but he added: "The Elvian is potentially a very good school site and I think we would be absolutely wrong to give in to this bullying we are being subjected to."

Gareth Ford, premises team leader for WREN, insisting that the Elvian site is still its preferred location, said: "We have put a lot of time and effort into this appeal. The Coley Park site is a reasonable second choice, but we are committed and chasing the option of securing the Elvian site."

Borough education and children's services leader, Cllr John Ennis, stressed that losing the Elvian site would put pressure on the council to meet the rising demand for secondary school places and he said: "The surplus is going down and the demand is going up. That the land is needed for educational use is still very much the case."

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