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Chair: Paul Exell (email: phone: 01793 703276)

Membership Secretary: Sarah McDermott

Friday, 29 March 2013

ORA Office Closed For Easter Break

Please be aware that the ORA office will be closed for the Easter break from Friday, 29th March 2013 until Monday, 8th April 2013.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Puzzle of Redhouse Village Centre

Planning approval has been given for 33 more houses on land at Redhouse Village Centre where there should have been a doctor’s surgery, retail units and other community facilities.  Residents are asking some questions: 
Ø  Why was no planning committee held to make this decision?
Ø  Why did local councillors pay the developer £240k for some land at the Village Centre?
Ø  Why did a local councillor say, at two public meetings, that the land was going to be given to SBC for nothing?
Ø  Why did a local councillor admit to seeing Village Centre plans in 2011 but didn’t obtain a copy of that plan for local people?
Ø  Is this the end of the much heralded cafe culture promised by local politicians to the residents of Oakhurst and Redhouse?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Please Mr Bumble; Can We Have A School Where We Want It?

It is with a sardonic irony that the Adver reports that Tadpole Farm will become the preferred site for a four-form-entry primary school in Priory Vale.  The council has been aware of the demand for school places for several years and funding provision had been made to meet the known demand. However, it carried out the following incomprehensible actions: 
  1. It was clear from the building programme that two-form-entry schools were needed, yet it continued to provide one-form-entry schools.
  2. This was coincidental in so far as Cllr Renard sat on a schools task group which carved up safety valve money for North Swindon schools and set out to build schools in South Swindon when there was already sufficient capacity.  In doing this, schools in the North were starved of building funds and new school places.
  3. Parents of children in Priory Vale have been treated in a cruel manner and now find their children shunted around the Northern part of Swindon for no other reason other than political incompetence and muddled thinking.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Mouldon Hill Country Park Saved From Development

Tonight SBC’s Cabinet made the decision to place two primary schools on Tadpole Farm. One will be built with access from the Oakhurst Way/Tadpole Lane roundabout and open in September 2014; the second site will be built later.

As we are aware, local councillors preferred the Country Park as the site for the new school. Residents in Oakhurst wanted to keep the Country Park and were quite clear, during the consultation, that no building of such kind should take place there.

Residents in Oakhurst also wanted a local site for a local school and asked for the planned Tadpole Farm school to be brought forward. Residents tell us that they are pleased that common sense has won the day and that the school will be built on Tadpole Farm.

ORA would like to thank everyone who worked with us to save the Country Park from development. Local people are pleased that a school will be built that does not involve a long hike over difficult terrain.
The new school at Tadpole Farm will benefit the people of Oakhurst and will be less distance to travel for all of the Oakhurst children when compared to the Mouldon Hill Country Park site.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Redhouse Pub Site: Suitable Falls at Becher's Brook

The report to cabinet on 20th March concerning the suitability of school sites in North Swindon states:

3.18 In addition to the site assessment further investigation with the developer in ownership of the Redhouse Pub Site option has identified;

3.18.1 The site is not under the control of the Council and the developer has indicated that they are working on bringing the site forward for local centre uses in the immediate short term,

3.18.2 The land is not big enough to accommodate a school and playing pitches,

3.18.3 There are complex contractual arrangements between the members of the North Swindon Development Consortium relating to the funding of infrastructure land which could affect the purchase price for the Council.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Local School Places or Product Placement for Class Solutions?

Class Solutions…
SCS (think Direct Labour Department ) is an ‘arms length company’ owned in total by SBC. Mr Pickles has described such arrangements as ‘sock puppets’.
Class Solutions is an SBC/SCS design of wooden pods with huge roofs where a 2FE primary school will require 5 18metre x 18metre pods, 15 pitched roofs and 4 flat connecting roofs.  Also known as a Pop-Up School, in which North Swindon MP J Tomlinson has previously shown an interest.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Redhouse Village Centre site - As Clear As Mud then?

Communication from an SBC planning officer in response to a query from a member of the public. 
In accordance with the Council’s approved Scheme of Delegation 2012, the application was determined under delegated authority by the Service Manager-Development Management. No Borough Councillor or the Parish Council requested the matter to be placed before the Council’s Planning Committee for determination.

The decision was authorised and issued on 6th March 2013. This is recorded on the application file.

Whilst the ‘hard’ file documents are clear that the decision was made under delegated powers, the electronic database, as you have pointed out, recorded otherwise. The database has been amended to reflect this.

This is a guest post

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Is This Another Injustice For Oakhurst People?

People in Oakhurst will be surprised to learn that their wishes and aspirations are recognised by the councillors but it seems they are not being listened to.  This patronising approach by councillors has to stop.  The people of Oakhurst have clearly shown they want a school at Tadpole Farm.  The council has carried out an assessment which also shows that:

3.19 In conclusion, the site assessment scoring brings the Tadpole Farm site out as the best option.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Is this Crunch Time for the Profligate and Inept?

Crunch time is coming when the lead member for schools and North Swindon councillor must lay his cards on the table for the site of the 2014 North Swindon School. At the moment, the public has been invited to consider Redhouse as one of the potential sites.

Would this be the same Redhouse for which the planning system shows PA S/12/0711: application for 33 houses and a charge of £240,000 to SBC for the land for a community centre?

PA S/12/0711 which states it was granted approval on 6/3/2013 by committee but for which no minute of presentation to or approval by the planning committee exist? Are elected members no longer necessary in the decision making process? Or was someone trying to hide this from public view?

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Class Solutions or Mammoth Erections?

The Mouldon Hill site (either entrance) comes with the Class Solutions design.

It is fairly obvious that the Croft was set up and the public stitched up to use this as the prototype and brochure for this half baked venture cobbled together in secret.

The Croft school, wonderful though the education may be and I hope is inside, is an eyesore. It looks as though all of the money has been spent on shoring up the ground and assembing MFI like sheds and roofs. All the other stuff necessary for a school.. like playgrounds and fences and entrances etc., look as though they came from the back garage at SCS.  All a bit Blue Peter'ish.

A recent article in the Adver about the Croft featured a head of the White Horse Federation waxing lyrical about the design and their involvement in it and, if I recall, stated that Class Solutions would be the design for all new schools in Swindon.

Now how on earth could a member of the WHF state or even know this? Do elected members know this? Where has this been minuted? And has anyone told St Joseph's?

Friday, 8 March 2013

Redhouse Village Centre Update

ORA have learnt today that planning permission has been granted for 33 houses at Redhouse Village Centre and the permission gives further news on the community centre site.

Residents have been asking us what is happening to the Redhouse school site in light of comments made yesterday in the Adver by Cllr David Renard, who was still driving forward the Mouldon Hill site.

This planning decision signals the end of the cafe culture promised to so many residents who bought their houses in Priory Vale and effectively signals the end of the proposed school site nearby. 

The consultation ends in two days and there will be disappointed residents who were hoping for a site at Redhouse.

It appears that building houses still comes before a doctor's surgery, school places and retail units. 

What's new there?

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Gamekeeper or Poacher?

It appears that schools in South Swindon are hawking for children from the North to fill their empty spaces in Old Town.

What sort of council would allow such a thing to happen?

It bodes ill for future school place planning in Swindon.

Here is some information:

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

School Place Consultation: Further Injustice to Oakhurst Residents?

March 20th is the crunch day when Cllr Renard, who is currently rumoured to be bidding for leadership of the council, will have to give his preferred school site choice for North Swindon.
What we do know is that March 20th is the date for the cabinet meeting.  However, the agenda and reports are circulated at least a week before.  That would be round about the 12th March.  The closing date for the consultation is 8th March so he has three working days to put a report together for cabinet.  Knowing how these things work, that seems a remarkably short time to produce a comprehensive report.
What we also know is that 90 reception school places have not been delivered in a timely fashion and now we have a sudden rush.  Why is this? These places have been needed for years and, at least five years ago, the numbers would have been known. 
Cllr Renard, as lead member, is responsible for school place planning and is trying to shunt this away from himself.
Blame shunting is not new to politicians on this council.  What the parents of North Swindon children have learnt today is that various facebook forums exist.  No mention has been made of these or how to access them during the consultation process but Cllr Renard places great weight on them in the Adver today.  Why have officers at Swindon Borough Council not told anyone about these facebook forums? What is Cllr Renard up to?
He obviously supports a Mouldon Hill Country Park option over the alternatives.   Why isn’t he honest about this? Or has he been on a facebook forum that nobody can find?  Even in the report there is no mention of how to access these forums.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Who Pays for Poor School Place Planning?

Last year, I joined an exclusive group; I joined the group of families who failed to secure any of their three school place preferences for their reception-age-children.  Instead, the members of this group were allocated a school place miles from their homes.
Unless you are a member of this exclusive group it may be difficult to understand what this means to a family and the impact it has.  I want to tell you what it is like:
1.    I spend a lot of time each day transporting my child to and from school.

2.    There is a financial cost; I was anticipating walking to school but, instead, I am paying for petrol and bus fares which are having an impact on the family purse. 

3.    My child loses the health benefits associated with walking to school.

4.    My child loses the social interaction with the friends he/she may walk with.

5.    My child will not be able to do after school activities or go to tea with friends as the transport logistics make it difficult to fetch my child at any other time than school leaving time.