School review call for Bishop Cuthbert site

CALLS have been made for the decision not to build a primary school on a plush housing estate to be reviewed.

In the original masterplan for the Bishop Cuthbert estate, in Hartlepool, space had been allocated for a primary school to meet the need of hundreds of new homes that were being built.

But a decision was taken four years ago, after a consultation with parents, not to build a new school and to instead use nearby existing primary schools including Clavering and Throston.

Some councillors sitting on Hartlepool Borough Council’s scrutiny co-ordinating committee have now called for a review of that decision.

The decision to axe plans was approved by the cabinet committee back in October 2008 after an extensive consultation process under the previous Labour Government’s Primary Capital Programme (PCP).

But councillors say new families may have moved onto the estate, and there is a need for a review.

Homes are still being built on the estate and in July councillors approved plans to further expand with 49 new homes on vacant land off Merlin Way, near to the Hartfields Retirement Village.

Labour councillor Paul Beck, who represents the Hart Ward, said: “Residents want these questions answering and they want to see some movement on a school for their children.

“The place is expanding all the time.”

Labour councillor Marjorie James, chair of the committee, said: “Land was set aside but the decision was taken by parents that they wish to support the school children going to the schools that currently exist.

“They wanted those schools to be the preference and the site that was held by the local authority was no longer required for a school.”

Coun Back added: “The land is developing so quickly that we should review that decision.

“I am talking about new people moving into the area.”

Peter McIntosh, head of planning and development within the council’s education team, said the council no longer has the land but said quite a number of schools in town are oversubscribed.

Denise Ogden, assistant director of neighbourhood services, said: “If we are suggesting that in future developments these are needed then we need to stand our ground and say this is what is needed, otherwise we are putting the problem off.”

Labour councillor Robbie Payne said it wasn’t a “blame game” and added: “If there is a need for a school we should be looking at it or put planning applications in to extend other schools.”

He added he didn’t want to see portable cabins being used by school children as substitutes for classrooms.

Labour councillor Angie Wilcox added: “It needs to be re-looked at.”

The issue came up during a wider discussion about an upcoming consultation about school catchment areas.

Officers are still working on the final details before they go out to consultation.

Mr McIntosh said: “We want to come back to members with a clear understanding and we don’t have that understanding yet.”