Two Village Green Public Enquiries

On Tuesday 1st February 2011, the Registration of Town and Village Greens Panel of Stoke-on-Trent City Council met, for the first time since July 2007, to consider two village green applications, one at Hulme Road, Park Hall and the other at Anchor Road, Adderley Green.

An application for village green status had been submitted in both cases following council plans to site the Discovery Academy there. Not only did the communities not want a school sited in these locations, they also realized that open green space they had perhaps taken for granted for ongoing community use could be built upon and they wanted to protect it. Margaret Lowe for the Community Schools Action Group applied for Village Green Status for the Park Hall land and Ian Jenkin for the Adderley Green Residents Association applied for Village Green status for the Adderley Green land.

Both applicants attended to observe proceedings at the meeting, although they could not attend the first hour during which panel members were being briefed. Paul Hackney, the legal officer, recommended public enquiries on the basis that the council was the land owner and the decision maker and there were other legal complexities. All panel members supported the recommendation and confirmed with Margaret Lowe and Ian Jenkin that they did too. Ian asked about the financial implications, since an application for Penkhull had been withdrawn for fear of cost liability. However the committee stated that costs would be borne by the council and would be £10,000 for both applications, not each as reported in the Sentinel.

Margaret told the Sentinel afterwards that if a member of the public had objected to village green status the objection would have been thrown out and a decision made there and then, saving costs. But as the council had objected this was their way of being ‘open and transparent’, but also trying to get the public on their side by stating the use of public money.

Ian told the Sentinel that as the council are owners of the land, objectors to the application and have to make a decision on it, there was only really one decision they could have made. However he was pleased about this.

Paul Hackney and the panel chair Joy Garner will appoint an independent inspector. We could hear more about this in May. Following the public enquiry the inspector will make a recommendation to the council that they may be expected to adopt, although they do not have to. If village green status is obtained there would be total removal of any possible development, securing the open space for the community.

Vernon Coaker says it again ““ council could give us 15 high schools in Stoke-on-Trent!

On Tuesday 23rd February Stoke-on-Trent MPs Mark Fisher and Rob Flello met with schools minister Vernon Coaker, who reiterated a previous statement that a two school solution, instead of the currently planned merger of Mitchell and Edensor, would be completely acceptable, provided that it came within the £25 million remaining for this. However he said this can not be imposed by government. A request for this two school solution will have to come from the council. He also confirmed, in very strong terms, that he told Ross Irving exactly the same as he told the media and the Community Schools Action Group (CSAG) about a possible two school solution.

Mark Fisher accuses Stoke-on-Trent council leader Ross Irving of telling a “barefaced lie” about obeying orders. Ross Irving is maintaining a stance that Mitchell and Edensor should be replaced by a single school. Government are clearly not ordering him to do this. Is he taking orders from officers? Is he not supposed to be a leader, able to think about an elegant two school solution? He and his cabinet do not even have a site for a single school. Two schools would be better for all the communities involved and would be in line with his own conservative party’s policy for schools of less than 1000 pupils.

What will it take for our council leader and cabinet to see sense?

The background to this is that following a crazy SERCO plan to merge two schools 5 miles apart, Mitchell and Edensor, rather than the obvious community centred approach of merging Mitchell and Berry Hill, less than a mile apart, CSAG has being doing battle with the council cabinet to get a better decision made.

As well as MPs Mark Fisher and Rob Flello, many ordinary councillors also agree with CSAG, including Steve Batkin, Rita Dale, John Davis and Adrian Knapper who are actively involved.

The council’s own Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee have recommended that Mitchell and Berry Hill should merge on the Mitchell site. The most recent recommendation on December 16th has still not been minuted or considered by the cabinet. That meeting also examined the bizarre selection of the Adderley Green site for a school, vehemently opposed by the “ËœSpringfield’ action group, after at failed a feasibility study. This site has been rejected by the council’s Development Management Committee.

Vernon Coaker’s visit to Stoke-on-Trent included the Mitchell High site which CSAG wants to retain for a High School as it is in the heart of the community it serves. Vernon Coaker met with CSAG and listened to their concerns. He told the Sentinel he did not rule out the possibility of keeping an extra secondary school. He passed the community views on to the council leader.
However he too it seems was ignored by Ross Irving and Children and Young People’s portfolio holder Ian Mitchell.

Pat Smith, chair of governors at Mitchell, reported on the subsequent meeting of CSAG with Ross Irving and Ian Mitchell in a letter to the Sentinel. She describes them as patronising and dismissive and Ian Mitchell as showing antagonism and viciously attacking the Mitchell Business and Enterprise College.

It is obvious that the Mitchell site should continue to be used for a community based high school. An additional school in the Longton area would fulfill the needs of the communities served by Edensor.

School’s Minister ‘Sympathetic’ To Mitchell & Springfield’s Cause.

AUDIO INTERVIEW WITH THE GOVERNMENT MINISTER FOR SCHOOLS NOW ONLINE

Schools Minister Vernon Coaker has met with members of the Community Action Group, the Springfield Action Group, Secondary Heads and Governors and MPs Rob Flello and Mark Fisher.

All parties left the meeting happy and were encouraged by the support the Minister offered to their campaigns.

But Mr Coaker stopped short of demanding a reprieve for Mitchell, Berryhill or Longton High Schools and he confirmed that the decision was still in the hands of the Local Authority.

Stoke South MP Rob Flello and Stoke Central MP Mark Fisher are demanding that the local authority locate schools in the communities in which they serve. They are calling on Council Leader Ross Irving to allow a refurbishment for the Mitchell High School which would serve the communities of Bucknall, Bentilee and Berryhill and for a smaller new build Academy type school to be built on the grounds of the present Longton High School.

This Academy would replace the proposed 2020 Academy which was to be sited on the green field site now known as ‘Springfield’. The school would cater for the Edensor High School, Normacott, Meir, Meir Hay, Parkhall, Weston Coyney and Sanford Hill communities.

The two MPs are hoping to present the local Authority with an official letter of support from Schools Minister Vernon Coaker and on behalf of the DCSF. They are then hoping that Ross Irving and his Cabinet, along with SERCO repeat their actions over Trentham High School and adapt the BSF proposals to fall in line with their plans for a refurbished school for Mitchell and a new build for Edensor on the Longton High site.

This Ministerial visit has given all members of the relevant action groups a massive boost and they are now hoping that the MPs can convince the City Council to implement the revised proposals.

We have four audio interviews to bring you.

The first is with the Government Minister for Schools Vernon Coaker.

The second is with the two MPs Rob Flello and Mark Fisher.

The third is with members of the Mitchell and Berryhill Community Action Group, Barry Stockley and Pat Smith.

The fourth interview is with the Chair of the Sprinfield Action Group, Andy Maskerey, who is cautiously optimistic.

We will bring you more reaction to this story tomorrow morning which will include an interview with Council Leader Ross Irving.