Woodlands Meed governors request extension to ultimatum deadline on new college build

Woodlands Meed governors have asked West Sussex County Council to extend a deadline set for the signing of a Development Agreement.

Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 10:45 am
Cabinet member Nigel Jupp speaking to campaigners and parents in December 2019

In a letter sent during the half-term holiday, the council warned that the agreement needed to be signed by Thursday (November 4) or proposals to build a new college would be withdrawn.

In an open letter to Tony Kershaw, the council’s director of law & assurance, governors at the school, in Burgess Hill, said their legal representative – who was on holiday when the letter arrived – would not be able respond before the deadline.

In the spring, governors asked the council to make more than 180 corrections to plans and documents for the new college.

Asking for an extension to the deadline, chair of governors Marion Wilcock highlighted a number of issues which she said had yet to be dealt with.

She said: “We discovered that the ceiling heights in certain rooms were too low to allow safe moving and hoisting of pupils, and that, without consultation with the school, the tracking system has been changed to one which is not suitable. 

“The provision of a fully functional, properly operating hoist system is an essential requirement for a generic SEND school.”

Ms Wilcock said the school had worked with the contractors and hoist manufacturers to find a solution but were still waiting for the final report. 

The governors also raised concerns about a mobile classroom which will be used for 15 months while the college is built.

In her letter to Mr Kershaw, Ms Wilcock said there was a safeguarding issue as the classroom will have no access ramp – essential for children with mobility problems – and no WCs.

As well as calling for a deadline extension, the governors also asked for an urgent meeting with officers ‘who are empowered to make decisions so these essential items can be resolved’.

She added: “People need to know that the only reason the Governors do not feel able to accede to the ultimatum is not a matter of hubris as WSCC have tried to portray, but a simple matter of health and safety. The proposals as currently presented do not provide a building which the school considers safe to operate.”

A council spokesman failed to say whether an extension to the deadline would be granted.

He added: “The issues raised in the email have previously been considered.

“All the points raised are either addressed in the development agreement or will form part of future documents as the design is further developed by the contractor and the subcontractor, as is standard practice for similar projects at this stage.”

While the governors have received unending support from the likes of the Complete Woodlands Meed School campaign,

Writing on social media, Pete Bradbury (Con, Cuckfield & Lucastes), chairman of the county council, said: “Tell the governors to stop prevarication; their delaying has already added £1.66 million to the cost.

“Sign the agreement and we can get started and build the school our children need.”