Leading councillor calls on government to find new home for Tipton primary school
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A leading councillor is calling for Tipton St John Primary School to be put into the government’s latest rebuilding programme.
Claire Wright, who represents the Otter Valley on Devon County Council, has urged education minister Baroness Berridge to provide the funding to enable a new school to be built in the village outside of the flood zone.
In the letter, councillor Wright tells Baroness Berridge: “I am writing to you asking that you consider the above much loved school, for your current rebuilding programme.
“I would have written to you earlier but was advised against it because a planning application for a new school build was in progress (along with 150 houses to plug a £5m funding shortfall) in the neighbouring town of Ottery St Mary. This very unpopular application, that drew significant opposition, was decisively rejected by East Devon District Council, earlier this month.
“The Environment Agency has been deeply concerned about the welfare of children attending the school since 2015 where it stated in a report that there is a ‘risk to life’ of the children attending the school because of the flood risk. It maintains this position. The school is in floodzone three.”
Councillor Wright added: “I have attended at least two clean-up community efforts since alongside teachers, parents, children and the fire and rescue service.
“Around 10 years ago, children had to spend six months having lessons in the local village hall and church due to a serious flooding event, which rendered the buildings out of action. For a decade, strenuous efforts have been made by the diocese, Devon County Council and the governors to find a solution.”
Councillor Wright said in the letter that In 2015, just after receipt of the Environment Agency’s report stating that Tipton St John Primary School held a risk to the life of its children, the diocese, supported by the county council, applied to the government’s Priority Schools Building Programme for funding for a new school to be built in the village outside the flood zone.
She wrote: “There were meetings with ministers and many encouraging communications were exchanged. A suitable piece of land in the village was identified and there were positive discussions with a local landowner.
“Unfortunately, after many months of encouraging discussions, our bid was rejected by ministers. This was extraordinarily disappointing and left the diocese and Devon County Council desperately casting around for alternatives. Eventually, this led to the very unpopular planning application that has now been rejected.”
Councillor Wright went on: “There is no other plan. This cherished local school is now at risk of closure due to the flood risk.
“New schools should be funded by central government, not by the planning system. Especially when the government body responsible for prevention of flooding has described the lives of children as being at risk.
“It is only a matter of time before the school is flooded again.
“The local community feels incredibly let down by government ministers over the Priority Schools Building Programme. As a voluntary aided school it is vital that it receives financial support from central government. I really hope that this time the government will now do the right thing and provide Tipton St John Primary School with the necessary funding for a rebuild outside the flood zone.”