Upgrade plan withdrawn for school near Milton Keynes

A planning application to upgrade a local school appears to have been withdrawn over the price of dealing with its access problems, according to a local councillor.

By Euan Duncan, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 26th April 2022, 6:35 pm

Proposals were submitted by Central Bedfordshire Council as part of its Schools for the Future programme for Aspley Guise Village School to switch from a lower school to a primary.

But Independent ward councillor John Baker accused the council of changing its mind because of extra expense involved to provide a suitable route and entrance to the Spinney Lane site.

He said: “The council is withdrawing its project as it’s unwilling to meet the cost of resolving a lack of good highways access and the constrained location.

Aspley Guise Village School

“This is deeply frustrating because the school raised these issues in 2019, while CBC was convinced it could press ahead regardless.

“I’ve repeatedly invited the councillors responsible for this mess to meet with the school during the past year to discuss the problems. They’ve consistently declined my offers.

“The school is local authority maintained, which means it does what the council requests. This initiative was driven and has been cancelled by CBC.

“The council has realised recently that a comprehensive plan for pavement and junction upgrades to the current road layout is unaffordable. That’s not the only issue. There’s not enough parking, even if the pre-school wasn’t present.

“A significant upgrade to the school building would be required to cater for 60 extra pupils, with additional play space too. CBC hadn’t accounted for any of these items and the true cost of an upgrade is much higher than the budget.”

In July 2020, a CBC executive meeting was told Aspley Guise and Swallowfield Lower would become primary schools in 2022.

Cllr Baker said: “Without any third party funding from developers or central government, finding £2m for Aspley Guise and more money for other schools across Central Bedfordshire could require the council to borrow hundreds of millions of pounds.

“And the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) crisis that has engulfed CBC also requires tens of millions of pounds to solve.

“The appalling timing of this announcement has left some families needing to take urgent action to secure a year five place for their child this September.

“Parents of children who were scheduled to remain have been contacted and will be supported, and I’m seeking assurances all children will receive a place at Fulbrook.

“I feel strongly for the staff at the school, who’ve put in huge amounts of time to prepare for the transition to primary already and wasted many hours dealing with CBC over a three-year period.

“The Fulbrook and Swallowfield upgrades are still moving forward (the unspent money from the Aspley Guise project no doubt being used to cover excess costs) and the switch to two-tier will take place as planned,” he added.

“Children from Aspley Guise will continue to transition to Fulbrook at year five...The council has failed Woburn, Husborne Crawley and Ridgmont lowers, and has now failed Aspley Guise Village School. I’m pressing council officers, the chief executive and members of the council’s administration to get their act together and solve this problem.”

CBC has been asked to comment.