A county councillor is calling for the Government to reconsider its decision to snub a funding bid to rebuild flood-hit Tipton St John Primary School.
About Author Daniel Clark eastdevonnews.co.uk
Otter Valley ward representative Claire Wright has written to education minister Baroness Berridge and launched a petition urging Whitehall to provide funding for a new school in the village.
The Environment Agency (EA) declared in 2015 that there is a ‘risk to life’ of the children attending the hub and that it must be rebuilt outside of the flood zone.
However, a £3.5million bid to the Priority Schools Building Programme was rejected in the same year.
Councillor Wright says ‘it’s now time for government ministers to put things right’.
Controversial plans for 150 homes and a new primary school in Ottery St Mary were rejected earlier this month.
The scheme would have seen Tipton St John Primary School relocated from its village setting to a site on the town’s outskirts.
Cllr Wright has told Whitehall: “There is no other plan. This cherished local school is now at risk of closure due to the flood risk.”
Tipton St John Primary School. Image: Google Maps
Flooding next to Tipton St John Primary School. Image: Devon County Council
She says in her letter to the Government: “I am writing to you asking that you consider the above much-loved school for your current rebuilding programme.
“The Environment Agency has been deeply concerned about the welfare of children attending the school since 2015 where it stated in a report that there is a ‘risk to life’ of the children attending the school because of the flood risk.
“It maintains this position and the school is in flood zone three.
“I have attended at least two clean-up community efforts since alongside teachers, parents, children and the fire and rescue service, and, around ten years ago, children had to spend six months having lessons in the local village hall and church due to a serious flooding event, which rendered the buildings out of action.
“For a decade, strenuous efforts have been made by the diocese, Devon County Council and the governors to find a solution.
“In 2015, just after receipt of the Environment Agency’s report stating that Tipton St John Primary School held a risk to the life of its children, the diocese, supported by Devon County Council, applied to the Government’s Priority Schools Building programme for funding for a rebuild in the village, outside the flood zone.
“There were meetings with ministers and many encouraging communications were exchanged and a suitable piece of land in the village was identified and there were positive discussions with a local land owner.
“Unfortunately, after many months of encouraging discussions, our bid was rejected by ministers.
“This was extraordinarily disappointing and left the diocese and Devon County Council desperately casting around for alternatives.
“Eventually, this led to the very unpopular planning application that has now been rejected.”
Cllr Wright adds: “New schools should be funded by central government, not by the planning system.
“Especially when the Government body responsible for prevention of flooding has described the lives of children as being at risk and it is only a matter of time before the school is flooded again.
“The local community feels incredibly let down by government ministers over the Priority Schools Building Programme.
“As a voluntary-aided school it is vital that it receives financial support from central government.
“I really hope that this time the Government will now do the right thing and provide Tipton St John Primary School with the necessary funding for a rebuild outside the flood zone.”