Site earmarked for new free school in Leeds

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Plans for a free-school - being set up by parents to solve a primary places crisis in north Leeds - have taken a major step forward with the earmarking of a possible site.

The team behind Roundhay Park Primary School has identified the former Elmete Wood school site as an option for the school and now wants to gather the views of parents in the area.

It comes after a ten-month search last year failed to find a suitable site in time for the free school to open in September 2017 as originally planned.

Bosses at The Fair Access Trust - which formed after more than 80 Roundhay parents said they missed out on all choices of local primary schools in 2015 - acknowledged the new site is a “compromise” geographically, but stressed it is the “only option” available at this time.

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Despite being on the opposite side of Roundhay Park to the ‘area of need’ on the north west, Gillian Hayward, chairwoman of trustees, said: “We firmly believe the site at Elmete Wood represents a reasonable compromise to solve the shortage of school places in the area. The site fits perfectly with our vision for the school...It must be emphasised that this is the best and only site option available to the trust at this time.”

She added: “It means rather than parents having to walk five or ten minutes to school, they would have to use transport or walk through the park.”

A questionnaire at http://www.roundhayparkprimary.org.uk/site-consultation will gather views until February 8.

The Roundhay Park Primary was given the initial go ahead last year to open in September 2017 by ministers.

The plan had been developed after parents in Roundhay launched a campaign, claiming they were living in a “school places black hole”.

Coun Lisa Mulherin, Executive Member for Children and Families, said: “It is simply not true to say that the Elmete Wood site is the “only site option available” and that there is a “lack of a site in the area of need.” It is not clear from the Trust’s press release whether this is the advice they have received from the government’s Education Funding Agency, but it is certainly not advice they have received from Leeds City Council.

“For over two years we have been working with the Trust applicants and the Education Funding Agency to find a suitable site to meet the need for school places in this area. The EFA were only interested in building a school in Roundhay Park and we have told them that they should consider the two sites either side of Rounday Park Lane on the Ring Road which would serve the area of need and enable parents and children to walk to school.

“We do not consider the Elmete Wood site as suitable, it is too great a distance from the area of need, there are significant highways issues and it is not within a reasonable walking distance with young children and so would result in an increase in the number of car journeys in the area. Additionally, this site would need planning permission to proceed and so it does not have any advantage over the other sites from this perspective.

“We are extremely disappointed that this site is being consulted on as we do not feel it is the best solution for local families and children.”

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