The Free School Committee’s consultation ends tomorrow. The Parish Council’s own questionnaire has now been delivered (and answered) by the vast majority of Wye’s households. Tomorrow morning there’s an extraordinary parish council meeting to discuss the issue.
One thing that’s clear is that it’s an incredibly divisive issue – which is very difficult for a small community to handle without effective process. Does such a manual exist?
On one side of the argument are those who see the school as a good alternative for their children. Alongside them are those who see the free school as providing a good use for the Edwardian college buildings.
On the other side are those who are against free schools in principle. With them are those who are concerned about what the free school will do to the traffic situation in the village. And also those who are suspicious that the free school may usher in further development.
I voted strongly against the free school in the recent parish council questionnaire for two reasons:
- It’s shocking that the plan has got this far without proper consideration as to what a free school would do to the traffic situation in the village. Despite traffic being a major concern of villagers (as has been revealed by the Neighbourhood Plan), there is still no official free school travel plan.
- Perhaps more important is the fact that I’ve always been unhappy about the free school process. I do not think I was the only parish councillor who believed that the issue would at some point be debated in formal session. Indeed the wording of the parish council’s qualified letter of support for the free school (see all letters: 130217FreeSchoolSupporting letters) seems to suggest an expectation that more debate would occur. That is certainly what I expected. But it hasn’t happened.
Of course I’m not the only one to have concerns – as can be seen from the report from Ashford’s Head of Planning and Development (Richard Alderton) to Ashford’s cabinet last week 130217ABCFreeSchoolResponse.
I would not rule out supporting the free school in future if my concerns are answered – but at the moment it’s difficult to see how the school can possibly open in September 2013.