LETTER: Deprived of cash and power

Your letters
Your letters

What a stark contrast between then and now!

Twenty-five years ago serious discussions began about the relocation of Tanbridge House School in Horsham.

At that time the school existed on two separate sites, one each side of the Worthing Road, where now stand Sainsbury’s supermarket and Tanbridge Park.

Originally intended as a temporary measure for the developing comprehensive school, this arrangement was becoming increasingly unsatisfactory.

When West Sussex County Council proposed to take part of the school playing fields for a much needed new town library, the school governors quite rightly asked what the school would be getting in return.

The council suggested a new sports hall, which the governors rejected. To cut a long story short, the governors persuaded WSCC to build a new school on a single site – where in fact it now stands.

Then began a serious dialogue between WSCC, Horsham DC, the school governors and other interested parties, such as landowners and developers.

In those days, as the Local Education Authority, WSCC still had responsibility for the provision of school buildings and for that purpose very competent, knowledgeable and professionally qualified staff.

This complex project succeeded because all the interested parties put their heads together under the leadership of WSCC.

The outcomes were a new library and a large modern supermarket in the town centre, a much-needed inner ring road, a new school in well-designed buildings, a safe cycle path from west Horsham over the bypass into Broadbridge Heath and the refurbishment of the old Tanbridge House as the centrepiece of a high quality residential development within walking distance of the town centre.

WSCC met its responsibilities with imagination and efficiency with several beneficial spin-offs for the community.

The county council now no longer has the responsibility, powers or capacity to undertake a similar project. Nor would it be allowed to do so.

For several decades local government has been subject to constant assault from central government, deprived of its powers and starved of funds.

Central government ministers and their compliant civil servants think they know best.

And what have we now got? A local plan with house building requirements imposed by central government vastly in excess of local needs, a district council helpless to reject (not that they tried very hard!) the proposals of a foreign owned, foreign based developer to build 2,750 houses on green fields in the strategic gap with only vague talk about adequate infrastructure and almost as an afterthought a new secondary school, in utterly the wrong place to complement the existing schools. And a free school to boot!

Taxpayers will have to finance such a school with little or no say in how it is managed. To whom will this free school be accountable? To our Regional Schools Commissioner, whoever he or she may be.

Hands up those who have even heard of the RSC! Answer: an official, often with no educational credentials or experience, appointed by central government, with the express purpose of corralling all schools into MATs or multi-academy chains, whether they like it or not, thus cutting out local education authorities from any significant responsibilities for education.

All we need now is for our new government to decide that Gatwick is a better place for an extra runway than Heathrow.

Neil Chapman

Collingwood Road, Horsham

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