Presented by the Corporate Director, the report gave an update on the 3 new schools which were Osborne Trust, South East Essex and Treetops. The land for the schools had been acquired and the head of terms had been agreed. The next stage was for the schools to go through the planning process.
Welcoming the plan of the 3 new schools, the Church of England Representative was also pleased to hear of the extension of Thameside Academy. She went on to question whether the levels of pollution had been assessed and if other risk assessments had been carried out. The Corporate Director replied no risk assessment had been carried out yet but the land chosen was the only areas available to build on due to the red lines of the Lower Thames Crossing proposal.
As the schools would be within Councillor Redsell’s ward, she declared a non-pecuniary interest in the item. She went on to say that her residents may petition against a new school in the ward due to the congestion of roads with buses. There was already a school and a rugby club within her ward which already caused congestion on roads within its surrounding area. Sympathising with this, the Corporate Director agreed that placing a school into an already congested area was not straightforward. However, it was for the Council to provide schools by law and it was a complex process when acquiring a new school as there were planning applications and mitigations to consider. The schools were very much needed but the service could try to influence.
The Chair queried if the temporary accommodation for the schools would still be built regardless of actions taken by residents and whether other options of available land would be explored. The Corporate Director explained that all options of available land had already been explored. If there had been no available land to build on, the Education Skills and Funding Agency (ESFA) would not have agreed to the temporary accommodation of the school. The process had begun back in 2016 to find available land.
Councillor Redsell commented that there had been other available land but the Lower Thames Crossing proposal had taken these. She went on to mention congestion problems on the A13 due to children being taken to school via this route.
As a resident of one of the affected wards, the Parent Governor Representative thought the acquirement of new schools were great but was concerned that residents were not informed about the infrastructure. She supported the new schools as there was a need for these despite being affected by the placement of Treetops. However, safeguarding issues should be looked at in the surrounding areas of the new schools e.g. safe crossings.
The Committee further discussed the need for new schools and the problems posed for residents in the areas regarding congestion. The Chair asked that the report be brought back to the Committee as an update on 12 February 2019.
1.1 That Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted and provided comment on the Free Schools Programme progress to date and the partnership working with the ESFA;
1.2 That Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted the update in relation to the Thames Park Free School; and
1.3 That Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee noted the Councils plans for temporary accommodation at Orsett Heath Academy and Thames Park prior to the opening of the Free Schools