Discovery Academy – The Final Piece Of The Jigsaw?

The Building Schools for the Future [BSF]controversy has rumbled on and on in Stoke-on-Trent for some 6 years.

It should have been a good, good news story, a win win for every family in the 6 Towns.

But from the moment that the then Elected Mayor and Serco decided to stand in front of secondary pupils, their parents, their teachers and their headteachers and tell them what they were getting instead of asking them what they want, it all went belly-up!

The Elected Mayors Board and Serco described this process as ‘Consultation’ – Oh how the communities laughed.

Citizens and schools staff united and turned into community action groups and gave birth to Hands off Haywood and the Trentham Action Group and the battle lines were duly drawn.

Just like the old Max Boyce sketch, ‘I Was There’! I witnessed the on-going fight that the Head of Heywood had with the leaders of Serco.

I watched with interest the walks to London, Bike Rides to Europe, the sit in in an EMB meeting – yes the Trentham lot were a feisty bunch.

Eventually those two action groups won the day for their communities and the BSF process seemed back on track – or did it?

The last ‘Academy’ site to be finalised was that of the Discovery Academy.

The lead school going into the Academy was to be Edensor High School largely down to the fact that the Head at the time, broke from the ranks of a very united group of ALL the secondary heads in the city and reached an agreement with Serco to move his staff a few miles to the other side of Longton to a new build that would eventually be known as the Discovery Academy.

The council then started looking for suitable sites to house this project. The original ‘preferred’ site was the old Gasometer, this was doomed to failure due to the costs of decommissioning the structre and stabilising the ground.

The site of the old Willfield High was always on the scene but there seemed a reluctance to recognise it as viable option.

Berryhill Fields and Mossfield Road were also contenders.

The Longton High School site was proposed by Rob Flello MP, some suggested that this was politically motivated as it was on the run up to the General Election.

But of the blue, the council announced that their preferred site was now Springfield. ‘Where is Springfield?’ – the residents of Adderley Green asked. ‘Just look out of your kitchen windows!’ – the council replied. The battles lines were drawn once again.

The Springfield Action Group were formed and they took on the council with a little help from PnP’s Nicky Davis who had been an integral part of TAG.

They lobbied, protested, held meetings and lobbied some more and eventually managed to convince a planning meeting that the land was to contaminated to build on and would pose a health risk.

All the time that the BSF proposals were being discussed, objected to, welcomed by some and hated by others, Mitchell High School fought for survival.

They wanted to be merged with Berryhill and a school for both communities built on the current Mitchell site. The school results were phenomenal, one of the most improved in the country. Their arguments however fell on deaf ears.

The Community Schools Action Group have fought a hard campaign, but it’s message has always struggled to be heard.

Finally last week, the decision was made to build the Discovery Academy on the land currently occupied by the Willfield Community Centre.

The decision did not shock me at all. It was a case of damage limitation in my opinion and if I’m honest, I was shocked that this conclusion was not reached a lot sooner.

Yes, it means that Edensor pupils will have further to travel, but many at that end of the City have always believed that the current Edensor catchment area will opt for alternative schools anyway.

Mitchell High have failed in their bid to get a school on their existing site, but have managed to get the new school location closer to their community.

The decision is probably in part due to finance as the City Council own the land that Willfield stands on.

The focus now is that the swimming pool and the City Learning Centre located on the Longton High site is retained and maintained for community use.

Let’s hope that this can be done without the need for yet another Community Action Group.

In the audio interviews below you will hear the relief, tinged with some sympathy from the Springfield Action Group and the disappointment of the Community Schools Action Group.

BREAKING NEWS: – Proposed Site For Discovery Academy

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has announced the preferred site for the new Discovery Academy.

Members of the city council’s BSF (Building School for the Future) Board have today agreed the recommendation that the preferred site for the new academy is land at the Willfield Centre, Lauder Place North, Bentilee.

The announcement comes after a five month feasibility study carried out by independent planning advisers Broadway Malyan.

During this time members of the feasibility team talked to local residents groups, schools, local councillors and others who have an interest in the location of the new school.

Work to prepare a planning application will begin immediately. People will then have the opportunity to give their views on the proposed development in October.

Cabinet member for children and young people’s services, Councillor Debra Gratton, said:

“The choice of Willfield was taken after a long and detailed exercise which considered a wide range of locations. We will now we go to the next stage of the process where the public will be able give their views on the proposed development.”

Council leader, Councillor Mohammed Pervez, endorsed Councillor Gratton’s comments, underlining the importance of the BSF programme to the regeneration of the city. He said:

“This programme will give a much needed boost to local employment and businesses as construction of the whole BSF project gets underway in earnest over the next few months. This latest development on the Discovery Academy is another step towards completing the overall BSF jigsaw.”

He added: “We appreciate people will want to make their views known about the next stage of the plans, and I want to assure everyone we will listen carefully and take note of all the comments that are made during the public consultation period in October.”

Discovery will be one of five brand new academies to be built in the city as part of the BSF programme. It is due to open in existing buildings at Mitchell and Edensor High Schools from September 2011, transferring to the new site in 2013. Construction work on the Willfield site is expected to start in late autumn 2011.

More interviews and reaction to follow….

The ongoing BSF fiasco ““ future pupil numbers

I’ve been too quiet for a little while now on BSF pupil numbers. I have been arguing this point with SERCO and the multitude of Children and Young People’s portfolio holders over the last two years, although I have not said much in the last 6 months because nobody with any influence in the council wants to see sense. But it is a good time to say something again now ahead of the visit by Ed Balls and Vernon Coaker in January.

The SERCO plans have suffered throughout from serious flaws, some of which have been eventually addressed, but there remains poor planned provision, with respect to both pupil numbers and geographical location, especially in the centre of the city and to some degree in the South of the city.

To recap the background, which many of you will be aware of, the council plans reorganisation giving a total of 14 high schools; James Brindley, St. Margaret Ward, Haywood, Brownhills, Holden Lane, Birches Head, St. Peter’s, 20:20, Thistley Hough, St. Thomas More, St. Joseph’s, Blurton, Trentham, Sandon. The current Longton High School has already ceased new intake, to be taken over by Sandon. The plan is for Berry Hill to close and merge with St. Peter’s onto the current site of the 6th form college and for Mitchell and Edensor to close to be replaced by 20:20. The mergers are geographically stupid. It makes far better sense to merge Mitchell and Berry Hill to a new school on the Mitchell site as is the wish of the local communities and as is being campaigned for by the Community_Schools_Action_Group. This would avoid a gaping hole in provision in the centre of the city. Planning permission to build 20:20 on Adderley Green has been seen off by the “ËœSpringfield’_Action_Group, the Community Schools Action Group, their representations and the council’s Development Management committee.

What I embark on now is an analysis of the provision of pupil places across the city. This is made difficult by the lack of openness of SERCO and the council and the continual movement and disappearances of information that does exist on the council’s web site. A particular outrage is the reluctance of SERCO to publish the BSF strategy for change part 2. They published part 1 but I wanted to see their up to date reasoning in part 2. Well if they are going to publish it, I don’t know when. I get the impression they are just proceeding with the outline business case that is supposed to come after part 2. However, I have put together a spreadsheet of pupil numbers which is as accurate as I can manage, given what I have available to me. You will need to refer to the link ““ Spreadsheet_of_Pupil_Numbers ““ to follow my analysis.

Sheet 1 shows the raw data and where I have sourced this from. Much of it is taken from the strategy for change part 1, but where there is more recent information available, I have used that. The information on planned pupil numbers for Trentham High has been changed since the strategy for change part 1, but then disappeared from the web site, but I do have the hard copy which was posted out stating that the capacity is 750, which I know anyway as I am a governor at Trentham High. The numbers highlighted in yellow in sheet 1 are SERCO’s own figures and show the high school population for the city decreasing from 13,113 in 2008 to 11,790 by 2014, then rising again to 14,642 by 2020. Also stated is the SERCO plan to provide 13,050 high school places, another stupidity that should be glaringly obvious to everyone. Do you not think that building schools for the FUTURE should be properly providing for 10 years from now? I do. You will notice also that the 13,050 high school places the council says it plans to provide is not in agreement with the total of 13,820 places I have referenced. In both cases I am using the council’s own figures, I can not help it that these do not agree. Perhaps there is a more consistent story in the strategy for change part 2, but how can I know as I am denied that information. I use the 13,820 for further calculations as at least it is closer to the 14,642 needed, despite not going far enough. If the 13,050 is indeed the plan, the situation will be worse than suggested by my analysis.

In sheet 2 I try to analyse provision in different areas of the city. To do this I make certain assumptions which may not be completely accurate but should at least provide a good estimate. I know the pupil numbers in the separate schools for the year 2008 and I know the total number of 11-16 year olds which is the age range I am analysing. But for the 3 schools with sixth forms I do not know individually how many 11-16 year olds there are, so the first assumption I make is to assign these in proportion to total pupil numbers. The second assumption I make is that pupil numbers will dip then increase in the same proportion, based on the year 2008 figures, everywhere across the city. I certainly know of one case for which this is inaccurate, Trentham, for which the 2008 figure is artificially low. We have 136 FIRST CHOICE applicants for 140 places in 2010 and look set to fill all places even when the annual intake rises to 150 from 2011. There may be other examples of figures which are rather too low or too high that I do not have knowledge of. So the best I can do in the absence of a complete set of individual projections is apply an equivalent algorithm to all schools.

I calculate the spare places in the planned schools for the year 2008 and for the year 2014 when high school pupil numbers reach their lowest point and for the year 2020. In these calculations I have followed the council’s planned mergers. Negative numbers result where the school can not accommodate the calculated number of pupils destined for it.

Then I imagine what I would have to do if I were in charge of applications to the schools and have to send pupils to alternative schools. These are listed in the sheet, obviously trying to select “Ëœnearby’ alternative schools, with the aim of solving the problem of any negative numbers. The adjusted figures are shown in the coloured columns. Working with the 2008 figures I fail to accommodate enough pupils in the 20:20 school and end up with 138 pupils, likely living in the Bentilee or Berryhill area, without a school place (orange column). There is some capacity elsewhere but how reasonable would it really be to send these pupils to Brownhills? It’s just as well other schools were still open in 2008. Looking ahead to 2014, I have initial problems with accommodating pupils at 20:20 and Sandon, but manage with alternative provision at Birches Head and schools in the South of the city (blue column), not that families involved would necessarily be happy with this. But looking at numbers rather than families, from the 2014 figures all is apparently well with the world. This lowest high school population year is presumably the blinkered SERCO focus, their idea of future not extending beyond 4 years. But looking ahead to the year 2020 reveals impending disaster. This is bound to be the case with the ridiculous policy of providing fewer pupil places than pupil numbers in the city, but is made much worse by the distribution of the pupil places that are provided. It can be seen from sheet 2 (pink column) that the new 20:20 and St. Peter’s fail to cater for the needs of the centre of the city with over 800 pupils without high school places and there is also some shortage of places, over 200, in the South of the city. These amount to the size of another school. The only available pupil places are in the far North of the city, well beyond any reasonable expectation of pupil travel.

My analysis uses the council’s own real data. Because these are high school data they do not depend on estimated birth rates, they depend on real live children who now exist and will need high school places in the future. If there is any reason why there could be any large exodus of young people from the centre and South of the city to ease the situation I would like to hear of it but I know of none. Certainly I do not believe, for our sake or anyone else’s, we should be seeking to dump our young people out of the city to Staffordshire for their education. I am aware I have used some assumptions in my calculations but these are fairly reasonable and I would be very happy to receive further facts and figures that could help refine them. But I would not be willing to settle for any unsubstantiated SERCO statement that their planned provision is adequate. If they think that, they should prove it by publishing their own detailed analysis and they should prove it for the future, for 2020, not just for 2014 to make their lives easier. Consider the lives of the young people of the city!

The best solution to the problem of under provision I have highlighted is to build the 14th school on the Mitchell site, to address the largest shortfall both in pupil numbers and geographical provision and cater for the needs of Bentilee, Berryhill, Townsend and the general Bucknall area. But further, I would suggest building a 15th school on a suitable site, possibly the Longton High School site, to better cater for pupil numbers in the Weston Coyney, Meir and Sandford Hill areas. This is no startling new suggestion that I am making. The 15 high school solution was the view of Mark Fisher, Rob Flello and Joan Walley 2 years ago when they worked with schools to suggest an alternative to the SERCO plans. Rob Flello MP has since then reiterated the argument for 15 schools

ROB FLELLO WANTS 15 HIGH SCHOOLS

and recently when the planning application to put 20:20 on Adderley Green was thrown out, Mark Fisher MP further reinforced the argument for 15 schools ““ see his video interview on:

http://www.pitsnpots.co.uk/news/2009/12/planning-application-parkhall-academy-refused

The council’s own Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee consistently presents sensible arguments for the right mergers of schools, the right number of schools and the right location of schools ““ see for example chair Cllr Mike Coleman’s video interview on:

http://www.pitsnpots.co.uk/news/2009/12/contamination-could-ko-springfield-academy-plans

but many of the scrutiny recommendations are ignored by the leader and his cabinet. If we really can not have 15 schools, the 14th should be sited at Mitchell and the rebuild/refurbishment plans for schools in the South of the city should be increased to accommodate the pupil numbers.

Apparent in the issues I have discussed is a distinct lack of openness and transparency and engagement with people, the things that government are always harping on about but just are not happening locally. Instead the council leader and cabinet are in my view treating interested citizens of the city with contempt. Why do they pay no attention to the needs and wishes of communities such as those served by Mitchell and Berry Hill High Schools? Why do they seemingly have no regard for the representations of the ward councillors for these areas. Why do they ignore their own scrutiny committee? What has happened to openness, transparency and democracy? Why is the BSF strategy for change part 2 not published and accessible to ordinary citizens? To me, something is very wrong.

Jim Knight when he was schools minister, under persuasion from Rob Flello, helped fix the Trentham High problem by strong advice to deputy mayor Mohammed Pervez. Let us hope that Vernon Coaker and Ed Balls, with Mark Fisher and Rob Flello, are just as successful with advice to Ross Irving. Let’s finally please get sufficient pupil places provided in schools in the right locations, to provide better future education for the young people of the city along the lines suggested by the local communities who will be directly affected.

…Oh – and a Happy New Year to Everyone.

CYPO&S on Adderley Green

On 16th December 2009 the Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee

http://www.moderngov.stoke.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=400&MId=3394

chaired by Cllr Mike Coleman, met to discuss how the Adderley Green – “ËœSpringfield’ – site had come to be put forward as the site for an academy school.

Other committee members present were Cllrs Ann James, Zulfiqar Ali, Rita Dale, Mark Davis and Ellie Walker and Wilfred Stanforth as parent governor representative.

(I include a few of my own comments in brackets.)

The meeting had come about because of a request by Longton North ward Cllr Denver Tolley, so he was asked to introduce the issue.

Denver Tolley explained that the first he knew of a plan for a school to be built on Adderley Green was when he attended a presentation at Willfield and not until he was there did he realise the area described as “ËœSpringfield’ was actually Adderley Green. He said that planners had suggested to put an entrance from Nyewood Road which wasn’t going to happen. Also there are unacceptable walking routes in the cutting on Anchor Road where the pavement is too narrow and on Dividy Road by the flats where there is only a pavement on one side of the road. He pointed out that with ~1200 planned pupils, 150-180 staff and evening activities, a small area would be swamped. Protesters over a wide area rejected the use of Adderley Green for a school.

Ged Rowney ““ SERCO – showed a map with the options “Ëœconsidered’ for an academy to replace Mitchell and Edensor: Mitchell, Berry Hill, Willfield, Park Hall, Mossfield, “ËœSpringfield, Longton High, Weston Sprink, Edensor High. (Note that as well as the plan for Mitchell and Edensor to close, Longton High school is no Longer admitting pupils and will go following amalgamation into Sandon and the plan is for Berry Hill to close because St. Peter’s is forming an academy on the old Fenton 6th form college site.) Ged Rowney referred to the pre-planning “Ëœconsultation’ which only included the Park Hall and Springfield options. Following the rejection of the planning application for Springfield he said either issues could be addressed and the planning application brought back to Development Management Committee, or other sites could be looked at.

Mike Coleman obtained agreement from the committee for Ian Jenkin, vice-chair of Springfield Action Group to sit with the committee and address them, as requested by Denver Tolley.

Ian Jenkin lives fairly close to the Adderley Green site but has no particular issues himself, no children or grandchildren living in the area, except that he wants justice for the local community. He pointed out the almost unanimous objection to this site, not only from near neighbours but from a much wider area. He gave a thorough account of the many issues. On 17th November 2008

http://www.moderngov.stoke.gov.uk/Published/C00000400/M00002034/$$ADocPackPublic.pdf

a Site Feasibility Report presented to CYPO&S showed Springfield failed feasibility.

(See pages 11-15 and note that a detailed analysis is only done for 5 of the sites listed on Ged Rowney’s map: Willfield, Park Hall, Springfield, Mossfield and Weston Sprink. 3 sites FAILED this feasibility study, including Springfield. Park Hall emerged as the preferred site with Willfield possible.)

The statutory consultation on the school closures had run from 18th May 2009 to 29th June 2009 with Park Hall as the preferred site, approved by cabinet on 22nd July 2009, but only after that did Springfield become apparent as a site. On 10th June 2009 a letter was issued to a much smaller number of people about the proposed “ËœPark Hall’ academy, requesting comments by 24th July 2009, 2 days AFTER the cabinet decision. This smaller “Ëœconsultation’ was for Park Hall and “ËœSpringfield’, sent to 663 residents, businesses and stakeholders. Ian asked: Why the name Springfield? How many of the 663 were actually residents? Why was the exhibition not held in Adderley Green, it was at Willfield but Bentilee is a different community. Only 30 people attended the exhibition ““ ridiculously low, a proper consultation would have needed 10,000 letters. He said many people destroyed the letter because they did not recognise the name. Ross Irving had said in an interview for pits’n’pots

http://www.pitsnpots.co.uk/news/2009/12/ross-hits-out-planning-refusal

that Springfield was always the preferred option, which looked very suspicious. Ian referred to a previous CYPO&S recommendation

BSF call-in 11th August 2009

that Berry Hill and Mitchell merge to a new school on the Mitchell site, which had been rejected the following day, before minutes were written up, by a farcical cabinet meeting.

(I like Ian, he seems even more outspoken than I am in the language he uses though and his sensitivity to possible conspiracies!)

Ian persisted in using an altered name for one of the council officers, in revenge for Adderley Green being renamed Springfield.

He also coined a new term – BSCS consortium, as the actual decision makers in the council on schools reorganisation (a subset of common purpose I expect). BSCS stands for: Bsf Serco Cabinet Sponsor.

He said whether the BSCS were actually trying to be misleading (deceit, devious, dishonest, dictatorial, bullies and incompetent were words actually used but Mike Coleman objected to the language) or not, the effect was the same. He cited a long list of examples including:
· An assurance of the number of stories in the planned building being 2 then subsequently increasing to 3 then 4.
· A wildlife survey regarding bats being replaced by an addendum with no mention of original issues. A list of bat sightings is available from SAG.
· A claim that letters from residents to planning protested about wasted funds on bsf, whereas the letters actually refer to government criticism of this.
· A claim that a school on Adderley Green would encourage and extend community use, when in fact it would not be available to the community during school time.
· A travel document said people nearby could walk to the school. Ian said it was “very clever of them to work this out all by themselves” (at which point I very nearly burst into a fit of giggles, the way he told it sounded so funny). In fact the journey to school from those in the Mitchell area would tend to double in distance and 85% of Mitchell pupils and 65% of Edensor pupils would have further to travel.
· The report says the route is generally satisfactory, but huge problems with pavements have already been pointed out.
· Page 8 in the recent issue of “ËœOur City’ (oh no not the spin machine again) says the schools program broadly received an enthusiastic welcome ““ not from these affected areas it hasn’t.
· The question “do you agree in principle with replacement of the existing school with a new school” attempting to load the answers and being used to claim 35 responses that “could be considered to be in support” and 65 objections. Whereas in fact if they are reanalysed taking into account those who said yes but not on Adderley Green they become 15 in favour and 85 against.
· A meeting at Bentilee Neighbourhood Centre where a show of hands rejected the Berry Hill / St. Peter’s merger was not well reported.
· Mitchell governors voted for an expression of interest for an academy but only with caveats attached which have now been disregarded, one of which said the vote only holds if the academy is on the Mitchell site.
· On 12th August Ross Irving had said he would talk to the community but this hadn’t gone well. Ian said he may be able to bully his cabinet but he can’t bully the protesters. There was a last minute attempt to buy off the SAG by “Ëœgiving back’ a small section of the Springfield site, a small part overgrown with brambles not used by people or used in the school plans. (This was one possibility I had warned SAG of before the meeting but I found they had learned quickly and were on the ball with this.) Ian said he had to laugh at the absurd belief that SAG would fall for this.

To close Ian said SAG were raising funds for a judicial review if needed but that if SOT council presses ahead, other parties will bring criminal proceedings against them because of the land contamination issues mentioned in Tony Walley’s report.

http://www.pitsnpots.co.uk/news/2009/12/contamination-could-ko-springfield-academy-plans

He said the planning document on the contamination has a report but no summary or recommendation, does anyone in BSCS know of the risks? He hopes Ross Irving and anyone else involved should be disgusted with themselves and consider their position.

The committee then debated the issues.

Denver Tolley couldn’t understand why the wish to break up the Mitchell area and Adderley Green area communities or why people would want to send their children out of their community to an academy. The views that people who don’t live in Stoke-on-Trent impose on Stoke-on-Trent are a bit over the top.

Mike Coleman said he experienced honesty and integrity with the BSF officers and asked Ged Rowney who decided Springfield was suitable. Ged Rowney said this was the “ËœBSF Board’ including representatives from the council, officers, DCSF, PfS (he rattled off some more a bit quick for me to catch) which considers a wide range of issues and that decided Springfield has now not failed feasibility. (Where are the membership and minutes of this BSF board published?) He is concerned about safeguarding children and the contamination but isn’t sure if this is a scare tactic or not.

Mike Coleman asked what support ward councillors on the committee found there was for the Springfield site. Denver Tolley said he did not detect any support. Mark Davis said objections started close to the site, he had some comments of support but nowhere near as many as were against. Mike Coleman said an advice document from a government minister says that the community should choose sites. Ged Rowney said there was a letter saying the council should decide, cabinet receives council reports and chooses sites.

Zulfiqar Ali asked what the arguments are against Park Hall and Willfield. Ged Rowney said Park Hall is green belt, would cost a lot and had issues with wildlife and different levels. Willfield has accessibility issues. Mossfield has levels issues. Springfield is owned by the council, has a good size, is in the right area and accessible. (Right area, accessible!) Zulfiqar Ali asked Ian Jenkin if the plans were modified to leave enough green space and footpath area would residents then not object. Ian Jenkin did not believe it was possible to do justice to both a green space and a school on that land.

Denver Tolley said the playing fields are important, it is no good to fence them off and give them to an academy.

Rita Dale asked why none of the ward councillors received the pre-planning consultation letter. Ged Rowney thought it had been and said that Cllrs Tolley, M Davis, Reynolds and Rob Flello MP had attended the exhibition. (It strikes me these are just the Longton North ward councillors and MP for that area, omitting any wider area the school would supposedly serve.)

Ann James said much of Stoke-on-Trent was slag heaps and landfill underneath, including Adderley Green. She is concerned about people coming in from outside the city not doing research and wonders if increasing cancer rates and poor achievement in children could be linked to use of bad sites. Old plans had clear areas marked that should not be used. It is safer to use existing sites than dig up new ones. She is concerned also about not being able to get sight of any academy sports strategies because sports use depends on what agreements are signed with the academies. The sponsors don’t necessarily provide money for all the services needed. She is also concerned about the large population in Bentilee that need to be served and their travel to school. She had looked at Mitchell High and was impressed with how it engages with its community. Mitchell and Willfield sites are available for use.

Ellie Walker wanted to know much more about the contamination and the costs to clear it, professionals should be brought in to look into this. She is concerned cabinet members do not know about this.

Ian Mitchell said 90% of the city is contaminated land.

Tracy Penrose admitted that remedying sites costs a lot of money.

Zulfiqar Ali asked if it is possible to run one academy with two sites, Edensor and Mitchell. Ged Rowney said anything is possible but there is “quite a distance between the two sites”. (That has hit the nail squarely on the head then. It’s the wrong merger! ““ Mitchell and Berry Hill should merge.)

Wilfred Stanforth said he is not from Stoke-on-Trent but knows the area in general. He said traffic problems need addressing but he thinks it is the right area. He suggested to “deal with the community”. On contamination he suggested “to eat a peck of dirt”. (!)

Denver Tolley said rule should be by consent and why not have two sites for two communities and pointed out that two communities have come together to prevent their communities splitting. Ged Rowney is concerned that the forthcoming visit by ministers Ed Balls and Vernon Coaker may go against “local democracy”. (I’m rendered absolutely speechless by that comment from Ged there!)
Mike Coleman then made recommendations as detailed in Tony Walley’s report

for voting on:
1. Springfield site contamination investigated urgently. Carried unanimously.
2. Springfield site not to be used for a school because of minimal community support, access and green space issues. Carried 4 to 2 with 1 abstention.
3. Future ongoing BSF consultations to be much wider including all affected. Carried unanimously.
4. Reassertion of previous CYPO&S committee recommendation to choose the Mitchell site. Carried 4 to 3.

Planning Application for Parkhall Academy Refused!

UPDATED: VIDEO INTERVIEWS NOW ONLINE!

Today the Development Management Committee on Stoke-on-Trent City Council rejected an Outline Planning Application to build a brand new City Academy school on the controversial ‘Springfield’ site in Adderley Green.

Councillors voted against the application by 8 votes to 1.

The Committee then voted in favour of a motion put forward by Cllr Paul Shotton and seconded by Cllr Pauline Joynson refusing the planning application again by 8 votes to 1.

The meeting had started with an overview of the plans presented by Brian Davis head of Planning.

He accepted that this was the most controversial of all the BSF planning applications. But he reminded those present that this application should not be used as a judgment of the BSF programme as a whole.

He highlighted the benefits to community through the added sports and recreation facilities that would come with such a development. He did recognise that there was considerable objections to the development. He also pointed out that the areas was not short of green space with Parkhall Country Park close to the vicinity of the proposed academy.

He recommended that outline planning consent be granted with the satisfaction of certain conditions which included concerns over drainage and contamination of the area and he also conceded that there were concerns over the width of pavements and traffic congestion but he stated that these concerns could be overcome and he considered the site suitable.

Pits’n’Pots’s very own Nicky Davis gave an excellent PowerPoint presentation which pointed out many flaws in the application. She also pointed out that the Springfield site had originally failed the council’s own feasibility study into suitable locations for the Parkhall Academy.
She also reminded those present that Cllr Terry Follows had issued an election leaflet during the last elections stating that he himself was against schools for 1200-1400 pupils and that he was in total favour of schools being in the centre of the communities they are to serve.

Speaking for the Sringfield Action Group Ian Jenkins gave an impassioned address to the meeting highlighting the variety of uses that the Springfield site had offered over the years. He pointed out the threat to the various wildlife in the area. He also informed the meeting that the proposal to divert a footpath around the development it take it closer to an areas troubled by Anti Social Behaviour.

Speaking as a resident as well as a ward councillor Denver Tolley told the meeting that the residents of the area concerned were not anti education, they were very much pro education. He siad that all the residents and the poeople who lived in that part of the city knew how bad the trafiic was and how dangerous the roads were. Indeed there was gridlock yesterday [Tuesday] caused by an accident involving a child being knocked off a bike. He also pointed out that a previous report had suggested that the proposed academy was to serve pupils between the ages of 11-16. The report presented today states that the school is to serve pupils between the ages of 11-18.

Mark Fisher MP gave a very good speech in support of Mitchell High and why it would be wrong for the pupils of that high school to attend a school in Parkhall.

After the applicants address to the committee in support of the development and an extensive question and answers session the application was put to the vote.

As the results were read out in favour of the community, widespread cheering and applause broke out around the chamber.

The Springfield Action Group and the supporters of the Mitchell High School left the chamber in a jubilant mood. But they will expect the fight to continue as the City Council now considers it’s options which include an appeal of the committee’s decision to the Secretary of State and/or a fresh submission of the planing application addressing the Development Management Committees concerns and reasons for refusal.

Please watch the video interview below. Mark Fisher MP gives his reaction to the news. There are more links at the bottom of this article which will take yo to our You Tube channel where you can view more interviews with the action groups representatives and our very own Nicky Davis.

Springfield Action Group hand petition over at Council Meeting.

By Tony Walley.

The Springfield Action Group were out in force at the civic centre today.

They staged a very peaceful protest against the proposed siting of a new Academy type school on a brownfield site just off Anchor Rd which is a haven for local nature enthusiasts and dog walkers.

If the proposals goes through not only will the local community lose this valuable peace of open space but our council will miss out on the chance to develop an unused piece of land that is in desperate need of improvement.

Today I caught up with the Springfield Action Group Chairman Andy Maskery, listen to the Audio Interview:

[audio:http://www.pitsnpots.co.uk/audio/1009/and-m.mp3]

Later this afternoon during a mammoth full council meeting and long after the representatives of the Action Group had left the chamber, Labour Group leader Mike Barnes criticised the Council Leader Ross Irving and his cabinet for promising further discussions relating to the various locations available for the new school and then a week later submitting an Outline Planning Application costing in the region of £18,500 for the Springfield site.

Council Leader Ross Irving responded to the criticism by stating that the exact location had not been decided but the Springfield site application had been submitted as a precaution if other sites proved unsuitable. He also revealed that just two locations were now under consideration, the site proposed by Rob Flello MP and Longton North Councillors, Denver Tolley, Mark Davis and Tom Reynolds just off Mossfield Road and the controversial Springfield site.

All other site have now been discounted due to the additional costs of land stabilisation and road access which would have to be covered by the city council as they fall outside the BSF funding criteria.

Labour Group Councillors Reynolds, Shotton, Knapper & Tolley all insisted for openness and transparency in future discussions relating the this issue and they asked the council leader to understand why the community were sceptical about the information coming out into the public arena given the fact that there is now a definite planning application for the Springfield site.

Leader speaks out – The half term report!

Audio Interview Now Online!

By Tony Walley & Mike Rawlins.

On Friday Mike Rawlins and myself went to interview Council Leader Ross Irving, it is a little over 3 months since Ross was voted in to the position of Council Leader.  We wanted to ask him  how he thought things were going and what the future holds.

Council Leader Ross Irving being interviewed by Tony Walley

Council Leader Ross Irving being interviewed by Tony Walley

Since the council chamber reconvened after the summer recess, two very big stories have hit the news.

Earlier this week the news broke that Interim Chief Executive Chris Harman and his officers are to recommend that the responsibility for Children & Young Peoples Services, be taken back in house.

This would mean an end to Serco’s involvement in education and the care of the vulnerable children in our city.

In this special audio interview, council leader Ross Irving pays tribute to the work of Ged Rowney and his team reveals the councils plans to build on the success of the Serco team.

Ross also gives us his thoughts on the location of the new Parkhall Academy which will give hope to the Springfield Action Group, but will also bring despair the the campaigners fighting to save Mitchell High School.

[audio:http://www.pitsnpots.co.uk/audio/0909/ross-irving-180909-1.mp3]

In the second part of the audio interview, Ross describes the difficult task ahead to balance the books after the revelation that our council faces a budget deficit of some £17million. We also get his thoughts on possible council jobs cuts, outsourcing and the prospect of a near 5% rise in next years council tax.

Ross also give us his assessment as we enter into his first winter as council leader.

[audio:http://www.pitsnpots.co.uk/audio/0909/ross-irving-180909-2.mp3]

As usual, your thoughts and comments on Ross’s answers are welcome………..

As we were leaving the leaders office with Ross he told us how the office used to be the Treasury Department and showed us the safe where the money used to be kept.  This is now used as the stationery cupboard, so when they say the are looking at cost savings in the council you can rest assured that even the pens are kept locked away to help save money.

Council Leader Ross Irving, the keeper of the stationary!

Council Leader Ross Irving, the keeper of the stationery!

We thank Ross for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk with us.

Keep Adderley Green – In Full Swing!

By Tony Walley.

The fight to prevent a brand new Academy on the ‘Springfields’ site off Short Bambury Street is in full swing!

On Saturday a 70 strong protest march took place to highlight the un-suitability of the first choice location for the proposed Parkhall Academy.
If the plans were to go ahead local residents and people in the surrounding areas of, Adderley Green, Sanford Hill, Meir Hay, Weston Park, Weston Coyney and Parkhall would be robbed of a valuable piece of green space, which is enjoed by many in particular local dog walkers.

There is now a website up and running which you can visit at www.keepadderleygreen.co.uk.

This committed group of people are not against a school for their area, indeed quite the opposite! They are against the destruction of a local piece of green space that is full of local wildlife and attracts many visitors from the local area.

The Springfield Action Group [SAG] are keen to point out that they believe it is a huge mistake to build a brand new school on a much loved area that is a haven for walkers and pet lovers when there is an abundance of land that is available off Mossfield Road that is as easy to access from all the catchment area for the proposed Parkhall Academy. They also firmly believe that a new school off Mossfield Road would dramatically improve the local area and still provide a safe route to school for all children of secondary school age by utilising the excellent cycle/walking trail that runs from Weston Coyney to Berryhill and takes in the Springfield site.

Take a look at the video of Saturday’s march:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFKS5x78eI8