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City's first free school wins its battle to stay put in city
THE future of Oxford’s first free school is secure after it was given permission to stay in its new home.
Tyndale Community School had its first full day on Monday, opening its doors to 36 four-year-olds. Ultimately it aims to take up to 420 primary-age pupils.
The school was refused planning permission to open in the former Lord Nuffield Club in Barracks Lane by Oxford City Council, but a change in planning regulations meant it could open for a year.
Chapel Street Community Schools Trust, which runs the school, appealed against the refusal of planning permission and an informal hearing was held by a planning inspector in July.
But the final decision had to be made by Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, who has now granted permission, as recommended by inspector David Morgan.
Chapel Street chief executive Russell Rook said: “We were all delighted, it’s fantastic news.
“I don’t think you ever take anything for granted but we have always been confident that part of Oxford desperately needs new school places and this offered a really excellent and value-for-money solution.
“It’s a great ‘well done’ for everyone who has put in a lot of energy, and it is a reward for those people who did have faith this could happen.”
The council’s reasons for refusal were concerns over traffic, loss of open space and a lack of playground space.
These were dismissed by both Mr Pickles and Mr Morgan. In a letter on behalf of Mr Pickles, Jean Nowak said he was satisfied it “would not harm the safety of highway users or the free flow of traffic, nor would there be an inadequate level of outside play and activity space for the pupils”.
Mr Morgan said in his report the “limited” loss of open space would be mitigated by public access to the facility, and “significantly outweighed” by public benefits.
City councillor Roy Darke, who represented the council at the hearing, said he believed the authority had made a good case for refusal.
He said: “Local opinion was strongly against the development and yet the Government felt able to overrule this and our sound planning objections by taking the decision away from local people.”
Former Oxford city councillor Bob Timbs, who lives in Normandy Crescent, was among 19 people who objected to the plans. He said: “I am disappointed. The reason we didn’t want the school set up was basically because of traffic – Barracks Lane isn’t big enough for that amount of vehicles.”
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