WOKING Park is to host the temporary home of Hoe Valley School for a year longer than was originally announced, it was revealed last week.
Despite the Secretary of State granting permission for the site on green belt land off Egley Road, delays in securing approval from Communities Secretary Greg Clark MP – as well as debate about how the new school facilities are to be funded – has meant that the target date to move to its permanent home will be missed.
In a letter to residents living near the temporary site, Woking Borough Council Chief Executive, Ray Morgan, said: “Unfortunately we will not be able to deliver the school’s permanent site until September 2018 and therefore will be unable to remove the temporary buildings until 31 December of that year.
“Many of you said you thought this was inevitable but I, and my colleagues, have tried extremely hard to deliver the permanent site sooner. I am sorry we cannot.”
The free school opened last September, after the council had agreed that it would be temporarily located in an area of the park that had been used as a contractors’ compound, pending the permanent site on Egley Road, which was originally intended to be completed ready for the start of the 2017 academic year.
The school currently takes 120 children aged 11 and above, with another intake of 120 expected at the start of each year.
Conservative Councillor Carl Thomson, who represents Mount Hermon East, told the News & Mail that, while the delay was regrettable, it was in the long-term interest of the school to take the time needed to get the project right.
He said: “There were originally concerns from people living in Woodlands and Constitution Hill that putting the school in the temporary location in the park could lead to problems with noise disturbance and traffic flow.
“However, from what we have seen so far these fears haven’t materialised to the extent that people thought they would. I’ve also been hugely impressed with the school governors’ willingness to engage with residents and work to address issues before they arise.
“The school has been a good neighbour and, by all accounts, is doing a fantastic job. We should do what we can to press ahead with the new location, even if that means keeping the temporary site in the park for the time being.”
Once complete, the Egley Road site will see the new school able to accommodate 840 pupils, alongside community sports facilities, a five-court sports hall, and an eight-lane, all weather athletics track.
Hoe Valley’s governing body said they had been working closely with the council and the main contractor on the programme for the school. As a result, the decision has been taken to move during the summer of 2018, ready for opening at the start of the academic year 2018/19.
Chairman of Governors, Lynne O’Reilly, said: “Having reviewed the site for students and leisure users, and the athletics track, we feel this decision is clearly in the best interests of our pupils, both current and future.
“We now have a schedule that gives certainty to the students and their parents, and includes some design changes to improve the site as a teaching and learning environment, as well as incorporating additional planning conditions, such as the cycle path.”
Hoe Valley School will remain at the current site until the end of the academic year 2017/18. Subject to planning permission, additional accommodation will be provided at Woking Park to enable the school to teach three year groups there.
Headteacher Penny Alford (below) said: “The current facilities within the school enable us to deliver exciting, relevant and creative lessons.
“Our students have access to a wide range of facilities at the Leisure Centre, as well as making use of Woking Football Club, Woking Library and The Lightbox.
“We are working closely with the Education Funding Agency to ensure we add the facilities we need to teach three year groups here and maintain our high educational standards.
“We will continue to provide a full, high quality curriculum for Years 7 to 9 at our extended temporary site.”
Hoe Valley School will be submitting a revised planning application for the Egley Road site at the beginning of March, and will be preparing an application for extended facilities at Woking Park in due course.