A report on the consultation for the proposed New Silsden Primary School
by David Loud
Well, tonight’s event was very interesting. Overall, the vast majority of people that I spoke to from 6pm to 7.30pm were wholly in favour of Silsden having a new school as a single Primary to replace the existing Junior & Infant schools. This would bring Silsden into line with the rest of the schools and the educational set-up across the rest of the Bradford District and wider afield.
There was however very vocal objections to the location of the school and in particular the location of the school with regards to traffic management.
Firstly, we were informed that there were 6 separate locations that were considered by a small committee. The committee discussed the various sites with planning, highways, local councillors and other ‘interested’ parties. All sites were rejected with the exception of the proposed site. What local representation was there at these discussions, and where were the local councillors tonight who played a part in the preliminary discussions; there were a lot of local people who were raising very real concerns regarding this whole issue which will impact on a very large percentage of the population of Silsden. Adrian Naylor did attend earlier in the day but there certainly wasn’t any further local council representation that made their presence known.
The alternative site that seems to have had the greatest local support where the old Weavestyle factory stood never even made it into the 6 primary sites for discussion. This decision was made on the grounds that the landowner was in discussions with a Supermarket chain (Tesco), and the cost to purchase the land was deemed to be excessive. In my opinion, a piece of land is only worth the price that an individual or business is willing to pay for it, and what planning will allow being built on it has the biggest influence in what the actual value is. Why then did local planning approve the development of this site for such use when they knew that the site of a new school was desperately needed. Why was this site not re-examined when the Tesco deal fell through?
The answer is, because they already had a piece of land that had been purchased back in the 70’s for educational purposes, and any further purchase of land in the same area for a larger school provision would not be as costly as this alternative location. In other words, the decision was on the major part, a financial decision and not on what was best for Silsden or it’ Children’s education.
Well, the land is now purchased and whatever any of us say, the school will end up being built on the new site. Common sense will not prevail. The team looking at moving the project forward were only told to go ahead in December 2016. They have a budget of approx. £8 million and the intention is for the school to be complete for the Autumn 2019.
Tonight, the team were presenting 4 proposals for traffic management. All 4 options will funnel traffic that is presently diluted across the two existing schools to the one single school. It is fair to say that the concentration of traffic will increase substantially. Additionally, the access routes to the new school are far more limited and restricted when compared to the present network feeding the existing schools. Not only will the traffic be more concentrated, but the proposed routes use a number of junctions that any sensible person would consider dangerous just for the amount of traffic that uses them at the moment for purely residential use, never mind the school run. A traffic survey is likely to take place in the next couple of months. The representatives could not confirm if the report would be made available, or put out for further consultation. A traffic survey could not be carried out previously because that would have incurred a cost, for a project that hadn’t been given the go ahead or a budget. So in other words, let’s buy a plot of land and see what we need to do to make sure it works – has a distinctive whiff of ‘Chicken & Egg’ to me.
The school will be built to have provision for 600 pupils. The present ruling is that the school can only be built based on the present demand of pupil numbers, and it will NOT allow the school to be built from the start on what are projected numbers for the future (even though the number of houses being built in the area is set to rise further). The design of the school, however, will make provision for expansion in the future, should it be needed, to allow for up to 800 pupils, increasing the existing traffic issues by a further 33% on present amounts. Where is common sense – get it sorted now because as sure as day follows night space will be needed.
The school will sit centrally running left to right on the plot shown in the photo posted earlier by Midway, and is likely to be a two-storey structure. The plans have not been drawn up yet for the actual design. The area below or to the south of the school will form the outdoor play and sports area. The topography of the ground shows a difference in levels from top to bottom to be 10m. I know the present outdoor sports provision for the schools is poor but surely it is not beyond the whit of man to be able to provide a level playing area for sports.
There will be no provision for a swimming pool. The existing pool will remain in situ on the present Hothfield School Site and will be safeguarded if the land is developed so long as there are parties interested in retaining and running the pool facility. This would probably be achieved by some sort of Asset Transfer but the discussions for that have not taken place as yet.
The school is likely to be over two floors and the school will be built out of allocated council budget funding rather than the PFI type schemes that have seen other schools in the area being built. The good thing about that is that the team looking after the build detail can ensure that fixtures, fitting and other provision in the building can be properly specified and fit for purpose, which hasn’t necessarily been the case in some of the previously mentioned schemes.
If you have any comments or concerns that you feel need to be raised, the council have a document that can be completed but must be returned to them by 17th February.
Could I ask that all the local councillors on both the Town Council, Bradford Council and our local MP confirm their opinions on the proposals so we can judge them on their position on this matter?
Hope that helps and I welcome comments from anyone else who attended who came away with a different perspective.