green belt - kingsbourne housing in nantwich

Plans for a new primary school in Nantwich moved a step closer when councillors agreed to go out to consultation over the proposals and look for potential sponsors to run it, writes Belinda Ryan.

As revealed by Nantwich News, the £3.5m free school is earmarked for land close to Nantwich Town’s Weaver Stadium and is needed to cope with rising pupils numbers created by a new housing development.

Altogether 1,100 homes are to be built at Kingsley Fields.

Cllr Kath Flavell (Lab), chair of the children and families committee, told Monday’s meeting at Sandbach Town Hall that local authorities could no longer set up schools, they had to be free schools.

“This one came about because of a new development in Nantwich.

“Officers have been monitoring the situation around school places in the area for quite some time and it was deemed necessary to provide extra facility for children in this area.”

She said built into the Kingsley Fields development plan was the provision for a new school.

“There is Section 106 money [from the developers] earmarked for that and we also have basic needs grants to top up that money,” said Cllr Flavell.

She added it was important the committee agreed the recommendations as it was hoped the school would open in September 2024.

Director of education Jacky Forster said: “What we will be doing is an informal consultation at the beginning of the process so, subsequent to a decision today, we will go with an informal engagement probably, rather than a consultation, with ward members and interested parties.

“That’s really to help to inform the development of the specifications for the school and so that we can design that based on that feedback.”

Cllr George Hayes (Congleton West, Con) asked whether the feedback from local schools would be listened to ‘or is that a just tick box exercise as part of an overall process’?

He said building a new school would have “significant ramification in terms of budget forecasting and financial sustainability for every neighbouring Nantwich primary school”.

“If the consultation responses are negative or promote an alternative option, do we have an option to pursue that?” he asked.

“The recommendations agree to the principle of a free school and agree to the principal of going out to a sponsor, so if all these local schools come back and say ‘no that’s not what we want, we don’t feel that’s the right solution for our community’, are we then sat here with our hands tied behind our back?”

Conservative group leader Janet Clowes (Wybunbury) expressed similar fears to Cllr Hayes over the potential impact on other schools.

“What makes me nervous is the expansion, four years ago, of Shavington Primary School and the appalling impact that that has had on certain year groups in all the surrounding primary schools,” said Cllr Clowes.

“I was at a governors’ meeting just last week at Wybunbury Delves where that year group, Y3, has only got 14 children in it, similarly with Weston, similarly with other local schools.

“So we do need to be careful that we get this right.”

Mrs Forster said in 2025 there would be a shortfall of 65 places in Nantwich.

She later pointed out: “The consultation, as set out, is to get us feedback to form the specification for the new school, not whether we proceed with one or not.”

The legal officer also told councillors: “This is not a consultation about whether there should be a new school.

“I think there might have been some misunderstanding, that it was actually a step further back.”

She said it was part of the DfE process.

The committee changed the recommendations slightly and agreed to proceed with the free school presumption process, subject to the DfE process, which will include undertaking a consultation with the local community, local schools, local councillors, town council and local MP.

They also agreed to proceed with the transfer of the proposed school site into the council ownership and to progress with the process of attracting potential sponsors to run the new school.

(aerial image courtesy of Jonathan White)

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