Campaigners assured that ‘need’ for new school cannot be used to justify housing

Campaigners have welcomed an assurance that house-building cannot be justified by any existing need for a new school.

Pressure group Keep Southwater Green (KSG) had sought clarification on the issue from Cllr Peter Griffiths, West Sussex County Council Cabinet member for education.

KSG spokesman Ian Thwaites said: “Keep Southwater Green has been concerned for many months that a number of influential people, including our MP (Francis Maude), were stating there was an
established and current ‘need’ for a new secondary school in Southwater.

“This was said publicly in the written submission of the planning department of Horsham District Council in relation to the aborted planning application by Berkeleys in Southwater in February 2012.

“The statement was not withdrawn, even when it was pointed out that it was unsubstantiated.

“It was also used by Oasis in their public meetings in the village when they were canvassing for support of their ‘free school’ around the same time.

“The existing local secondary schools in the area disputed it because they insist they have adequate capacity and their figures appeared to be supported by West Sussex County Council’s projections.

“We felt it was really important that far-reaching decisions in relation to Southwater should be made on the basis of correct information, not presumed and unsubstantiated dogma.

“Accordingly we approached Cllr Griffiths and asked him to clarify the present position with an unequivocal statement.

“This he has done. He has made it perfectly clear that the need for a school only arises if substantial new housing is approved in Southwater and cannot be used as an argument to justify the granting
of such approval.

“He rightly says – and we would not dispute – that if Southwater parents wanted such a school that would constitute a valid and different reason for establishing it.

“At present, and when Oasis put forward their proposals last year, such a preference was not apparent. Nor was it apparent from the answers to the district council’s
survey in 2011.”

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