Councillor Claire Wright (Objects)
Comment submitted date: Mon 17 Aug 2020
Tipton St John Primary School is in flood zone 3 and needs to be replaced, I am in no doubt of that.
I have seen the damage caused at clear up events that I helped with, alongside the community and fire and rescue service when the school grounds were filled with mud, sewage and silt.
While I am opposed to this planning application I would like to outline some of the history that has led up to this point, as I believe it is fair to put it into context.
The Environment Agency retains its position, held since 2015, that there is a risk to life related to a potential flood.
Last year rope fastenings at either side of the road between the two school buildings were fixed so that children crossing the road to safety during sudden flood events, were able to hold onto something secure.
I am fully aware of the ongoing stress and worry that this situation has caused headteacher, Colin Butler and his staff for many years as flood prevention measures must be every day be a top priority in order to keep the children safe.
In 2015, the Diocese of Exeter, supported by Devon County Council, applied for government funding under the Priority Schools Programme, to rebuild the school on a piece of land in the village, outside the flood zone.
This application was accompanied by the Environment Agency’s assessment that there was a risk to the lives of the children, if it was not relocated.
During that time, an in-principle agreement with a landowner at Tipton St John had been arranged, to purchase a piece of land on the edge of the village – and various planning suitability investigations were carried out.
After a number of positive meetings with ministers and many hopes raised, the application was finally and disappointingly rejected.
Plugging a financial hole of around £5m is the background that led to a planning application for 150 houses in Ottery St Mary, on a piece of land outside the built up area boundary.
This land, adjacent to Cadhay Lane, is allocated for community and education in EDDC’s Local Plan and also in Ottery St Mary and West Hill’s Neighbourhood Plan, so this application is contrary to the current EDDC Local Plan, as well as Ottery St Mary and West Hill’s Neighbourhood Plan.
Such a significant development would also place additional pressure on the town’s roads and health services.
Any large development on this land could cause problems with water run-off and potentially increase the risk of flooding to lower lying properties on Cadhay Lane and the Thorne Farm estate.
Ottery St Mary has been one of the fastest growing towns (in terms of housing) in East Devon over the past 10 years and should not be expected to cope with more housing at this time.
The government has recently announced a new £1bn school building programme and I have asked the Devon County Council portfolio holder for education, James McInnes, that the council applies for this funding in order to fully fund the rebuild of the school, preferably on land at Tipton St John.
While I fully support the need for a new Tipton St John school, it should be built in Tipton St John, with government funding, not in Ottery St Mary, funded by 150 houses.
[The three District Councillors have yet to comment – Owl]