Strong Woodlands Meed Support Forces Venue Switch For Next Council Meeting
17th June 2018 | By Peter Chapman
The next episode of the Woodlands Meed School Completion Campaign will now be played out at the Martlets Hall, Burgess Hill, after the sheer number of campaigners forced the County Council into a rethink.
The meeting, to be held on Tuesday June 26th at 7pm, was originally taking place at the woefully inadequate town council chambers, but after more than 90 Woodlands Meed campaigners piled into Haywards Heath library on 20th February for the last County Local Committee meeting, a bigger venue was needed for what it sure to be another difficult night for the Conservative-controlled county council.
For those not aware, there's been a long standing battle with the county council to make good on their promise to complete the full site for SEN 4-19 years olds in Burgess Hill. Currently, those in year 10 up to year 13 are still attending the aged Newick House location, now known at the Woodlands Meed College site.
Plans to bring all the age groups under one roof were seemingly scuppered last year when the county council - due to delays of their own making - had to sign away land at Oakmeeds to the Burgess Hill Academy. Land which had been earmarked for the school site expansion.
The council have also been blaming a lack of funds, claiming they can't use any money raised from a potential sale of the former Court Meadow SEN School - which Woodlands Meed replaced - in order to complete the full school project.
Back in April 2017, a petition forced a full debate at the council HQ in Chichester, during which, the majority of Conservative Councillors voted against a motion which would have seen the council pledge funds to complete the full school site.
With a change in cabinet member and the elections, progress had severely stalled.
As time passes, more and more children with special educational needs are having to travel outside of Sussex to be educated - at a vast cost to the county council - as the Woodlands Meed college site is not suitable for pupils with particular mobility issues and care needs. In addition, the college site lacks the facilities to provide the full curriculum.
The Current Plan Of Action:
In recent months, the council and the Woodlands Meed governing body have been in discussions as to how to come to a resolution.
West Sussex County Council have been undertaking a feasibility study with one of the following proposals the most likely:
1: Attempt to merge the college and school sites on a much smaller footprint at the existing school site off Chanctonbury Road.
2: Upgrade the college site to be run as a seperate facility long-term.
3: Completely rebuild the college site.
At this month's County Local Committee Meeting on Tuesday June 26th, Woodlands Meed supporters will once again be pushing the councillors, officers and the cabinet member for a progress report.
The Complete Woodlands Meed campaign group have been assured that these following questions will be answered at the meeting:
1) Is the Feasibility Study progressing to plan and what are the key risks identified to date
2) What is the actual date the Feasibility Study will be completed
3) How will the Feasibility Study be published to the general public and the actual date
4) What is the actual criteria that will be used in the Feasibility Study to assess the 3 options and provide a recommended option
5) Will the Feasibility Study include a Cost Benefit Analysis
6) Will the Feasibility Study include a full funding proposal and if not what date will this be available
7) Will there be any decision making and/or processes that will need to take place post publication of the Feasibility Study to select a final option. If yes, please provide full details including who will be involved.
8) Once a final option is selected/agreed what are the next steps/stages that take place to allow this option to be fully delivered
9) Will WSCC commit to finding the equivalent of the proceeds from the sale of Court Meadow site and put this towards Woodlands Meed College funding, as part of the overall WSCC commitment
10) When will a full plan to complete the delivery of the selected/agreed option, with target dates, be available for the public to view
We also look forward to hearing from Richard Burrett with the WSCC overall update.
It is hoped that Richard Burrett - Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, will attend in person to provide an upate.
We'll also get to find out how many of the local county councillors made good on their pledge to visit the college site.
If you can, please come and show your support on Tuesday 26th June, 7pm at the Martlets Hall.