Controversial plans to set up Preston’s first free school in a former office block in the city centre have suffered a set back, but organisers have vowed to open on time.
The Taudeehal Education Trust asked Preston Council for permission to change the use of offices in London Road to a state-funded muslim boys’ school.
Free schools in our area are not wanted and not needed, they create absolute havoc within the local authority’s coherent planning for school admin places because they draw pupils from other schools.Simon Jones
However, the proposal was thrown out on the grounds that there wasn’t enough evidence to show the proposal would not hamper the free flow of traffic on the surrounding highway network and to both pedestrian and highway safety.”
The school, costing £8m, is due to open in September and the first pupils have already been enrolled.
Hamid Patel chief executive officer Tauheedul Education Trust said an appeal against the decision is being lodged and a new application is also being submitted.
He added: “We are confident that planning approval will be secured in due course. We have always intended to open the school at an interim site.
“Parental response has been extremely positive and we expect to open as a full school in September 2015 as planned.”
Local businesses that have objected to the development say they will continue in their opposition, in order to protect their business interests and say they are also have concerns over issues relating to the health, safety and well-being of the children attending the school.
In it’s submissions to the Department for Education over the proposal Lancashire County Council pointed out there were surplus school places in the city’s schools.
County official 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.”
Simon Jones, the county’s executive member of the NUT, added: “Free schools in our area are not wanted and not needed, they create absolute havoc within the local authority’s coherent planning for school admin places because they draw pupils from other schools.“We know from other areas in Lancashire this has led to redundancies of our members. It’s a waste of public money.
“As well as taking pupils away from schools, it takes money away from other schools.”
The Trust already runs a school in Blackburn and has just been given approval to open a primary school, the Olive School, in Preston, in 2016.
This will be the first free primary school in the city and is expected to be a feeder for the secondary school.
In it’s submission, the trust said it’s vision for its Muslim schools is that they should become a national model for progressive, mainstream and positive faith-based education that provide young learners with outstanding academic foundations to help them become exemplary members of their communities.
Simon Jones said: “Free schools wreak havoc with the local authority’s coherent planning for schools admissions.”