DEVELOPMENT IN NEWPORT – THE POSITION OF NFGS
Recent publicity about development proposals in Newport in the run-up to the preparation of the Uttlesford local plan has, very understandably, led to questions from local residents about the attitude of the school to such possibilities.
The school does not wish to take a view about whether or not there should be further development in Newport. That is a decision to be taken through the normal planning arrangements, following consultation with the local community, in which all views can be aired, but during which the school intends to maintain a neutral stance and to accept the outcome of the process.
The duty and proper role of the school Governors and Trustees is to promote and protect the interests of our students, both present and future, thereby ensuring they receive the best possible education and opportunities. In that we serve the interests of families both in Newport and many other local communities. That responsibility takes many forms, including seeking to maximise the quality of the physical accommodation and other facilities in the school – a challenging task with an estate which includes buildings across a dispersed site from the Victorian era (with the protections of listed building status) and every post-war decade. It also includes ensuring the physical safety of our students –another challenging task as they have regularly to cross Bury Water Lane during the school day, and many of them are exposed to the dangers of the inadequate pedestrian arrangements on Cambridge Road at either end of the school day.
It is against that background that the school needed to consider initial approaches from Pelham Structures. These raised the possibility that, were some development to be approved on areas of land bordering the school, that could provide funds (through a Section 106 agreement) to finance improvements to or rationalisation of the school buildings, coupled with safer road and access arrangements around the school site. The Governors and Trustees concluded it was essential at least to consider whether such ideas, were they to prove feasible and financially viable, would be to the benefit of our students in future. Indeed not to have done so would have been a dereliction of our duty.
Since those initial approaches, as is now well known a range of possible options involving the school have been put forward and publicly aired. That has more recently coincided with the consultation exercise in advance of preparation of the Uttlesford local plan. This included the option for all landowners to indicate whether they would wish their land to be considered as potentially available should the local plan include proposed allocations of land for housing or other development purposes in Newport.
After taking professional advice the Governors and Trustees, again in line with our formal duties and responsibilities, concluded that they wished to keep open all options under this process which could be of benefit to the school and its students. Accordingly they have decided to enter into no understandings or partnerships with any other parties, and have indicated to Uttlesford District Council that some or all of the school’s land could be considered as available for development should that be judged through the planning process to be appropriate.
We now await the outcome of the local plan process. Were no development to be approved for Newport the school would continue, as we have in the past, to attempt to maintain and improve our facilities (and mitigate our safety risks) to the best of our abilities within the prevailing climate for public spending.
Were some development to be approved for Newport, whether in relation to the school’s land or elsewhere, we would consider any proposals affecting the school’s facilities that may be forthcoming on their merits and decide whether it is in the school’s interests to pursue them. We would, however, be under no obligation to pursue any such ideas if we concluded they would not benefit the school. In either event the Governors and Trustees would continue to be mindful in their decision-making of the views of those in all the communities we serve.