Preston’s free school plan back in the spotlight

Simon Jones

Simon Jones

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Bosses of Preston’s first free school are sticking to their guns over plans to convert a former call centre and office block into classrooms.

The controversial plan by the Taudeehal Education Trust to use the Universal House in London Road, Preston, is back on the table despite being refused by Preston City Council in February.

Free schools are not needed and not wanted. They wreak havoc with local admissions planning and drain resources from all other schools.

Simon Jones

An application for prior approval has been resubmitted by the potential developers on the grounds that it meets all necessary requirements, despite objections.

The school, costing £8m is due to open in September and has already enrolled the first students, saying parental response had been very positive.

However, the Trust is planning to use premises in Guildhall Street, in the city centre, until a permanent home is ready.

The council’s main objection was over traffic.

Universal House is close to the busy New Hall Lane and London Road junction.

However, in their re-submission the applicants have pointed out that “the building is surrounded by an extensive area of hard standing providing parking and recreation areas.”

There is parking for 150 vehicles.

Local businesses objected to the development and a spokesman said they would continue to do so, adding: “ The local businesses that have objected to the development will continue in their opposition, in order to protect their business interests. For my part, I would support our tenant but more importantly I would continue to highlight issues relating to the health, safety and well-being of the children attending the school to anyone who will listen.”

He said: “ The location is not just inappropriate for the businesses affected but, more importantly, for the children who may attend the school. The proposed location raises significant issues with regard to the health, safety and welfare of the children who will travel to and be educated at the school.”

Simon Jones, Lancashire’s national executive member of the National Union of Teachers said: “Free schools are not needed and not wanted. They wreak havoc with local admissions planning and drain resources from all other schools.”

In it’s submission to the Department for Education over the original free school proposal Lancashire County Council said the area was “ well served by a diverse mix of schools, the majority of which are rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted, and there is already significant spare capacity within those schools.”

Despite several attempts we were unable to contact the Taudeehal Education Trust for a comment.