City Council "keep the door open" in school row

Press Release: 24/03/2006

Winchester City Council say they have "kept the door open" for discussions with Hampshire County Council over the provision of a new school in Whiteley. This is despite threats from the County to seek a compulsory purchase order so that they can build on recreation land at Meadowside Leisure Centre.

"I am very disappointed at the County Council's reaction. We have proposed talks - it seems they have proposed compulsory purchase. Grant funding was applied for a year ago, why are we forced into a corner on this issue in these final weeks? Time is running out but if a solution is to be found it would have to be a compromise and a CPO is not the route to compromise" said Cllr Sheila Campbell.

She added that her Council had always supported a new school but there had to be a balance between providing a school and protecting the recreational needs of the community.

"HCC now accept they got it wrong when they underestimated the number of school places they needed to provide for this new community and we have been urging the County to find land for a school for years," said Cllr Campbell. "Now we are being blamed if we do not agree to a proposal which many fear will compromise the community's well run, much used recreation ground," she added. "Meadowside and its land is the only formal sports and recreational facility for around 6000 people who live in Whiteley. Building on that open land is going to be hugely detrimental to the Centre."

She believes that some residents are angry that they are being asked 'to take it or leave it and told that there is no plan B'.

"Voting in favour of a school on the recreation ground was finely balanced, and there are many very real concerns about the impact on valued local facilities. A petition of 70 signatures, mostly of youngsters who use the recreation grounds, was apparently not mentioned at the County's Cabinet meeting. At the WCC Cabinet meeting on Wednesday (22 March) a further two petitions were presented containing almost 300 signatures, with addresses, of people keen to keep the recreation facility as it is," she said.

Cllr Campbell said the City Council has proposed an alternative she did not believe the County has properly considered.

"It is not the only alternative," she added. "Other land has been offered to the County and our conclusion at this week's City Cabinet meeting was that the current proposal is unacceptable, but that we should meet to discuss possibilities. I am certain there is a way to provide a school and protect recreation, but I am not convinced that we have the solution yet.

"We are willing to meet with the County and those with recreational interests in Whiteley to discuss alternative arrangements at Meadowside, to see if there is an arrangement which might accommodate us all. I hope County colleagues are as ready to try and find a solution which benefits all of the Whiteley community as I am," she said.