D-Day looms for site of new Leeds free school at centre of pupil places ‘black hole’ controversy

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The search for a suitable site for a planned new ‘free school’ in an area of Leeds with a severe shortage of pupil places looks to have been whittled down to two options,

A consultation on the location of the proposed primary school in Roundhay - an area dubbed a school places ‘black hole’ - has been completed, and the results have revealed a 50/50 split between land off the ring road at Roundhay Park Lane East, and the driving range at Roundhay Park municipal golf course.

The other two options, Treetops Community Centre in Alwoodley and the former special school site at Elmete Wood, have been roundly rejected by parents, according to Leeds City Council’s cabinet member for education, Lisa Mulherin.

All four sites are owned by the local authority. However the council has no powers under current laws to build or run the free school itself.

The YEP reported earlier this year that the organisation behind the Roundhay Park Primary School - the Fair Access Schools Trust made up of parents - had written an open letter to the council stressing its belief than the Elmete Wood site was the “only option” available.

This came after a ten-month search failed to find a suitable site in time for the free school to open this September 2017 as originally planned.

A consultation was launched earlier this year after an outcry from parents. It was put on hold when the snap General Election was called but is now complete.

Coun Mulherin said the community near Treetops had made it clear that “we want to keep this as it is”.

She added that Elmete Wood, which is nearly three miles way from the area of need, had “come out very badly as well”.

The latter had been favoured by the Government’s Education Skills Funding Agency, she added.

“They were about to put this in as a planning application, but none of the parents wanted that site,” she explained.

“That has come out very clearly from the consultation responses, which leaves us with two options - Roundhay Park Lane East on the ring road near the area of need, and the golf driving range in Roundhay Park, both of which are in walking distance of the area of need.

“If there had been an obvious easy deliverable site, it would have happened already.”

Coun Mulherin said the consultation results - which have just been published - show that “the feedback is very much 50/50 between those two sites in terms of the public’s response”.

“So it’s really for the Education and Skills Funding Agency now to decide where they want to submit a planning application,” she said.

“We have said that if we were to recommend one of the two, we think you’d get less objections from the public in general to the Roundhay Park Lane East site.”

She added: “As far as we are concerned, the public have spoken and it’s now for the Education and Skills Funding Agency to submit a planning application for the site.”