Academy facing 'significant financial challenges' has housing plan turned down
PUBLISHED: 08:05 29 November 2018 | UPDATED: 08:07 29 November 2018
Joyce Frankland Academy in Newport, which says it cannot afford to repair its broken boiler and a leaking roof, has had its attempt to sell land for an ‘injection of funding’ refused by Uttlesford District Council (UDC).
Duncan Roberts, the academy’s new interim principal, said: “In one building we are unable to replace a faulty boiler and we are installing temporary heaters to keep the students warm this winter.
“Part of the Grade II-listed building has been closed for 14 months because the roof is unsafe and can’t yet be repaired.
“The broken buildings and tired resources and facilities are now impacting students’ learning experience.”
The Newport school is facing significant financial challenges but a bid to sell the school’s car park and build 24 houses on the site was refused by UDC on Wednesday, November 21.
Despite the refusal, councillors have said they will try to help the school, despite having no statutory responsibility to do so. Academies are funded by government.
The reasons for refusal included strong objections from the council’s conservation officer and landscape officer.
Traffic congestion and the cumulative effects of other ongoing developments in the area were also raised as objections.
The principal, Mr Roberts explained to the planning committee why approval of the application was needed.
“Difficult decisions, including not replacing broken or out of date facilities have all been necessary.
“Many of the buildings are in a state of disrepair and it is exceptionally hard to maintain them to an acceptable standard.
“So we have identified this sale of land as the best option for the injection of essential capital funds so our facilities once again match the quality of our day-to-day work.
“The proposal for no affordable housing, if accepted, will increase the amount we can reinvest.
“We are fortunate that we have land we are able to sell. The car park that some of the housing will be built on can be relocated to land suitable for no other use and the perimeter of the cricket pitch, where the other houses will be built, has never been suitable for any sporting activity.
“Nonetheless, we’ve agreed with Sport England that part of our reinvestment will be improved sports facilities to benefit both the academy and the community.
“A significant proportion of funds will be spent on state-of-the-art sports facilities that will help to inspire future generations from our community for many years to come.”
Mr Roberts emphasised that exam results are high, staff retention is good and pupil numbers are increasing.
“We have a sound financial plan for the next few years to cover staffing and other current costs,” he said.
“But being able also to invest more money in our facilities will ensure that we remain viable for the future. “That reinvestment will mean that students have computers that work, science and technology facilities that function effectively, music equipment that they can actually play, drama props that they can perform with, and they will be able to do this in classrooms, science labs, workshops and computer suites that are warm and clean and comfortable and fit for purpose.”
The district councillor for Newport, Neil Hargreaves, said it was not the job of the village to accept a “damaging development” to make up for lack of government funding.
He said: “The refusal nevertheless leaves the academy still very short of funds and district and parish councillors discussed with the head and a trustee after the meeting what we could do to help.
“We have some ideas and have asked the academy for a list of what they need.
“But the academy is being starved by the government of the essential funding to be able to employ enough teachers, and to maintain its buildings and equipment. That is the source of the problem.”