Ridgeway Farm's new school will be delayed by a year
THE primary school earmarked for the new Ridgeway Farm development is set to be completed a year behind schedule.
Following consistent objections to the plans from residents, councillors and companies, construction began on the site last month.
As part of a planning inquiry, it was stated the school would be open within 18 months of work commencing on the site, but it has now been revealed the date has been put back to June 2016 while Wiltshire Council secures funds to administer it.
Taylor Wimpey plans to deliver around 50 homes by the end of 2014, with another 90 in 2015, continuing year-on-year until the first stage of development is complete.
Kevin Fisher, chair of the Shaw Residents’ Association, said that would leave around 46 children without a local school.
“I imagine it is for financial reasons,” he said.
“The government statistic for the average numbers of primary age children is 0.23 per household, so if you look at that in respect of Ridge-way Farm, the numbers come in as 200 houses that are planned to be completed by June 2016.
“Timing the opening of a new school in a new housing estate is always a careful balancing act – too early and it is not economically viable or it fills with pupils from outside the intended catchment zone, too late and existing schools become over-subscribed.
“It then takes some years for the children within the new estate to switch to the new school, putting pressure on road infrastructure.
“We are informed that the build rate for houses on Ridgeway Farm is currently as predicted during the planning inquiry and yet there is a negotiation under way to delay the school by one year from the schedule agreed at the inquiry.
“This raises two questions – first, who within Swindon Borough Council is ensuring the delay will not negatively affect west and north Swindon residents in terms of available primary school places within their communities and, second, how is it this aspect of the proposal agreed by the inquiry can be changed and yet we were categorically told by the developer and Wiltshire councillors alike that other aspects, such as the spine road width, could not be changed?”
A Taylor Wimpey spokesman said: “The provision of a new primary school at our Ridgeway Farm development has been carefully planned to coincide with the delivery of the new homes.
“Following discussions with Wiltshire Council, the opening of the school has been delayed by 12 months for the education provider to secure the necessary funding and to best serve the needs of the development’s future residents.”
Jacqui Lay, councillor for Purton at Wiltshire Council, said she had been unaware of the delay.
“My information was that it was still scheduled for autumn 2015,” she said.
“The school was to be built and ready for the occupants of the new housing.
“If Taylor Wimpey are now saying they will not deliver the school until 2016, that may delay the delivery of those houses.
“The application was granted because of the urgency of the housing shortfall, but that would mean it would take four years from the planning application to the time they open up the houses.”