Due to open in September 2021, the future of the proposed new The High School Leckhampton has been called into question by a last-minute, privately-funded judicial review brought by one local resident.
With a proposed capacity for 900 pupils, building work was about to begin on land off Kidnapper’s Lane for Cheltenham’s new £30m senior school in Leckhampton, sponsored by Balcarras School.
While planning was unanimously granted by the Gloucestershire County Council planning committee on Friday 15 May 2020, the opening of the new school may now be delayed or even halted completely by the move described as a ‘last-ditch attempt to derail the scheme’ by a local supporters group.
Anna O’Connor, founder of the Facebook group Supporters of the approved new Leckhampton Secondary School, which now has 940+ members, has been working with Leckhampton Parish Council, Balcarras School, GCC and local borough councillors since January 2020 in a hope of smoothing the way for the school to be built on time.
Described as ‘much-needed’, the Leckhampton corridor has historically lacked any local senior school options, with a growing population adding extra demand for school places for 11 to 18-year-olds – a shortfall the new school would redress.
The anger and worry from parents is evident, with more than 80 locals attending a virtual parish council meeting on Thursday 3 September 2020 where a motion was passed asking for the judicial review to be withdrawn.
Armed with banners and placards, around 200 people also attended a peaceful demonstration in Burrows Field on Friday 4 September 2020, with Alex Chalk MP also in attendance.
Mrs O’Connor said: ‘It is staggering that one person in our community can use the planning process to bring an action at this very late stage, which could have such a detrimental effect for the future of our whole community’s children, the education of hundreds in Leckhampton and Warden Hill.
‘This is causing so much stress, anxiety and desperation among families who have already been through so much in the last six months. We have worked so hard to get this school approved. It will be at the heart of our community and an asset to it.
‘There is no alternative, no Plan B, no contingency, and it is totally undemocratic if one person is allowed to stand in the way of the educational needs of so many by raising a few technicalities. This school has been through a full public consultation process with huge support proven.’
For more information about The High School Leckhampton visit newschoolcheltenham.co.uk
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