Helston College rebuild plan sensationally withdrawn as headteacher kept in the dark (From Falmouth Packet)
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Headteacher stunned as Helston College rebuild plan dropped without being told
7:00am Thursday 24th April 2014 in News
A school building scheme to secure the future of education in Helston for generations to come has been sensationally withdrawn – without the headteacher’s knowledge.
Dr Pat McGovern only learnt of the decision to withdraw the planning application, for the demolition and replacement of the existing dilapidated C-block, when contacted by the Packet yesterday (Tuesday).
He said: “My reaction is one of complete frustration and disappointment, that we have not been informed it was withdrawn.”
He described “discourteous” as “putting it mildly.”
“It looks like we have come to the end of the road on this. It’s nothing short of a major disappointment for the school and college. Where do we go next?” he added.
Dr McGovern had believed Cornwall Council’s cabinet was to make a decision on the future of the application at its meeting early next month.
It is almost a year since the council announced it was unable to find the £10 million pledged by the previous cabinet in its own budgets.
A discussion over alternative ways of finding the funding had been due to take place at a cabinet meeting of Cornwall Council last year, but has subsequently been delayed again and again.
“I thought they were going to consider four options on the table and if they’re now saying none of the four options are being considered they haven’t told us. The last thing I heard they were going back to the cabinet meeting,” added Dr McGovern.
However, this week it was stated on the Cornwall Council website that the status of application, submitted in March 2013, to also include moving the existing multi-use games areas and synthetic pitches onto the existing playing fields, was “withdrawn.”
The Packet has learnt the decision to withdraw would have been taken by the property services department at Cornwall Council, which submitted the application rather than the school itself.
It was following pressure from the planning department, which despite giving a number of extensions, said it was unable to keep the application open “ad infinitum” and the final extension would have ended this Friday.
With planning services unable to offer a decision by then, it withdrew the plans.
A representative of the department was unable to comment before the Packet went to press.
Agent Anjay Sharma, of HLM Architects (Plymouth), which is acting on behalf of Cornwall Council, confirmed yesterday that the application had indeed been withdrawn.
He said the college was now looking at “more of a long, drawn programme in terms of actual maintenance initially.”
Mr Sharma added: “I think there needs to be a big push to maintain the existing buildings and make them worthy of educational use, prior to the bigger scheme. It’s just priority.”
He said that the rebuild plan “hasn’t gone away” and would be resubmitted “at some point.”
Mr Sharma said it was not known what the next step would be until a proper programme was drawn up in conjunction with the college.
Maintenance work costing around £300,000 – described as “patch works” by Dr McGovern – is due to be carried out in the summer holiday, that should stop the leaks and repair some of the windows that are currently screwed in to prevent them from falling out.
However, a similar amount has already been spent out of an agreed £800,000 maintenance budget for the school, on architect designs and going through the planning process, after the previous Cornwall Council cabinet indicated its willingness to fund the rebuild – which could potentially now be wasted.
Helston’s mayor Jonathan Radford-Gaby spoke of his outrage on behalf of the 1,500-student secondary school, telling the Packet: “Had this been Cornwall councillors in Truro or MPs in Westminster the buildings would have been replaced years ago.
“The fact of the matter is, because it’s the students in Helston all of a sudden it’s acceptable. I don’t believe it is acceptable. I think the students of Helston are being remarkably short-changed and are in conditions that are unfit in which to study.
“We have got Cornwall Council arguing with central government and while that happens our children suffer.”
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