Renewed and urgent calls have been made to help fund the relocation of a primary school on a ‘risk to life’ floodplain after more flooding last week.
Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com
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, and they maintain this position.
Tipton St John Primary School, which has about 90 pupils, has suffered from repeated flooding with children being evacuated and the school being shut.
Last week’s heavy rainfall once again hit the site and led to flooding, with pictures showing the water still boot-level high even hours after the water levels had peaked during the night.
Cllr Jess Bailey, who represents the Otter Valley on Devon County Council, has once again called on the Government to help fund the relocation of the school
Cllr Jess Bailey at the flooded Tipton St John Primary School
The preferred option had been to try and relocate the school within the village, but after a £3.5m bid to the Government was rejected, and due to the flood risk, a rebuild on the current site was not viable, a move to Ottery St Mary was considered the only realistic option.
Plans to relocate the school to Ottery St Mary, as part of a 150 home housing scheme, had been put forward, but in January 2021 the plans were rejected by East Devon councillors due to the housing element by 11 votes to two.
Cllr Bailey said: “It is vital that the government funds the relocation of Tipton St John school within the village of Tipton St John. This intolerable situation has been dragging on for years and the government needs to do the right thing. There is an established ‘risk to life’ from flooding, which is a matter of huge concern. The government must act now.
“It is ridiculous that the government has previously not taken into account flood risk when deciding which schools to fund. This has meant Tipton St John primary school has missed out and was not one of the 100 selected schools. This must change for the next funding rounds”
“It is not a matter of ‘if’ it is a matter of ‘when and how bad” the next flooding incident will be at Tipton St John School,. I am very fearful of what this could mean for teachers and pupils as there is a clearly established ‘risk to life.”
She said that last week she was concerned about possible flooding at Tipton St John School, and when she arrived at 8am on Thursday morning, she was shocked to see just how much water was on the site – and this was hours after the water levels had peaked during the night.
Cllr Bailey added: “I have written to the relevant government minister Baroness Barran, to highlight the issue of flooding at the school. This situation cannot continue and I am urging the government to fund the relocation of the school within the village.
“I have emphasised the importance of flood risk being a key criteria for funding for new school buildings, particularly when there is an established ‘risk to life’, which is the case at Tipton St John.”
Her letter added: “The site is within flood zone 3 and has experienced flooding events on multiple occasions in recent years.
“Strenuous efforts have been made by the Diocese, Devon County Council and the School Governors to relocate the school for over a decade now. This significant and unresolved flood risk issue needs to be addressed as a priority through the School Rebuilding Programme.
“Flood risk which is dangerous and poses a risk to life – as it is the case at Tipton St John – must be a key factor in assessing priorities. Not only does the flood risk at Tipton St John represent a threat to life, but also could cause long term closure of the school with significant educational disruption to pupils.
“And what is more, the flood risk is set to worsen significantly in coming years due to climate change making this an even more pressing issue.
“I do really feel that the government must fund the relocation of Tipton St John School within Tipton St John. This dangerous situation which represents a threat to life cannot be allowed to continue and the government must provide vital funding.”
Devon County Council has previously argued that as many of the pupils already come from Ottery St Mary, it made more sense for the school to be built there than in Tipton St John.
Flooding at Tipton St John Primary School overnight on Wednesday, October 20/Thursday, OCtober 21
Councillors had been recommended to approve the scheme for a 210 space primary school and up to 150 new homes on land opposite Barrack Farm in Exeter Road, Ottery St Mary, when they met in January.
But the committee rejected the plans on the grounds of the countryside location of the housing scheme which is in an area not allocated for residential development and outside the built up area boundary of the town, the harmful visual impact, and that it didn’t provide the 50 per cent affordable housing required in policy.