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Parish council calls for radical rethink on Elmswell Primary School expansion plan

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Elmswell Parish Council has objected to proposed funding for expansion of the village school in a last attempt to 'bring some common sense to the system'.

The parish council believes a new school should be built on a larger site than the current Oxer Close facility, which would be unable to expand further as the village grows.

Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet is recommended to approve £1.56 million CIL (community infrastructure levy) funding for the Oxer Close expansion project, which would see the school accommodate 420 pupils.

Elmswell Parish Council has identified potential sites for a new school in the village, rather than expanding the current school on an inadequate site - councillors pictured at one of the potential sites. Picture: Mark Westley
Elmswell Parish Council has identified potential sites for a new school in the village, rather than expanding the current school on an inadequate site - councillors pictured at one of the potential sites. Picture: Mark Westley

Peter Dow, clerk to Elmswell Parish Council, said: "The parish council is dead set against the plans to expand the existing primary school to 420 pupils on a site that's already too small."

The parish council, in a letter to Mid Suffolk District Council, has called for a radical rethink of primary education provision in the village ‘if standards are not to be allowed to drift gradually backwards towards the basic minimum of provision and acceptability’. It is asking for a break in the process to allow a case to be made for a strategic approach.

The parish council said: “There is dismay and resentment at this further indication of the lack of strategic planning when considering primary education provision for our children.”

Elmswell village sign
Elmswell village sign

Elmswell Parish Council has invested heavily in provision for the growing population, including the village’s new Wesley facilities, enhancements to the Blackbourne and the purchase of the Tavern site for the creation of a community pub and affordable homes.

“It contrasts starkly with the make-do-and-mend, hand-to-mouth approach which residents perceive to be reflected in the proposals for our school,” said the letter.

The parish council feels the school’s current site is too small for the proposed expansion, adding: “The reality is cramming and the result can only be seriously detrimental to the education, socialisation and mental wellbeing of generations of our children.”

Meanwhile, the parish council has identified two potential sites for a new village school, with space to cater for population growth.

“Unless and until these options are properly considered, the CIL contribution in question should not be wasted on what is, effectively, a temporary solution which seeks to provide an experience well below that which Elmswell children deserve and which the community of Elmswell expects,” added the letter.

On Friday, parish councillors met MP Jo Churchill, who is to raise the issue with MP Michael Gove, secretary of state for housing, communities and local Government.

A spokesperson for Mid Suffolk District Council said: “A CIL bid has been submitted by the local education authority, Suffolk County Council, to fund the expansion of Elmswell Primary School from 315 places to 420 following it identifying this as the preferred option to increase pupil provision in the village.

“Our councillors will consider whether to approve this funding – taking into account comments from the local community, including the parish council – at Monday’s cabinet meeting, which will be made publicly available on our YouTube channel.”

A Suffolk County Council spokesperson said: “Whilst we understand the concerns of the parish council and the local community, Suffolk County Council has a statutory duty to provide school places.

"Our Schools Infrastructure team has engaged with the parish, district and county councillors regarding the education strategy for the area generally, and the expansion of Elmswell Community Primary School specifically.

“Our strategy, and our response to the consultation on the impact of growth at Elmswell, was based on the capacity of the local schools and land available to us at the time.

"At that point, we were not aware of any potential land being available for a new school; this has only been flagged to us since we began to implement the agreed strategy.”

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