School Open Spaces

This is a project that has been “on the books” for quite a while now, but has been painfully slow in getting underway. When the former Gurnard Primary School in Hilton Road moved to the old Solent Middle School site in Baring Road, the old site became surplus to requirements.

Following much speculation of what might happen to the site, a consultation was held at the school with proposals for what we call the “buildings site”, which basically is to demolish the school buildings, including the pre-school building and swimming pool block, and replace them with 7 housing units – plans given are below.

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This eventually became the subject of an outline planning application, which was approved in October 2011, with no objection from the Parish Council.

What interested the Parish Council was the former school’s open spaces – the Parish Council consulted widely with the community in 3 separate consultation exercises to see if the idea of gaining an asset transfer of the playing field and school orchard areas to use as community amenities would be supported. In short the response was overwhelmingly supportive, with only one objection to the idea! A couple of pictures of the sites are below:

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Orchard March 2012 (5)

Consultations took the form of 2 separate questionnaires, which were  circulated to each house and promotion of the consultation also took place at some community group events. The 3rd consultation was carried out at Gurnard Primary School, and a presentation was given at assembly to explain some options for use of the open spaces and then the pupils, guided by the teaching staff, worked on a project to create ideas in model and picture formats, before setting up an exhibition of the findings at another assembly. Their work was quite stunning to put it mildly, and they came up with some great ideas on a very similar theme to ideas supported already by the community- some pictures of the exhibition are below:

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Negotiations with the landowners, IW Council, proved to be a little like walking in treacle and meetings were held at Portfolio Holder level to work out a way forward, to enable the sites to be kept for community use. The IW Council seemed supportive in principle, but priorities and then later dealings with the Department for Education slowed progress even more. Eventually it was decided to “open market” the sites, but with a clause to the efect that they must be used for community use only – as at January 2013 this hasn’t happened yet.

There were land maintenance challenges during the summer of 2012, with the IW Council having no budget to keep the grass cut on the 2 sites, but after much campaigning it was cut towards the end of the summer,  but not before damage was done to what was a beautifully kept grassed area – see below:

SONY DSC

Following some further feedback from the IW Council and its dealings with the Department for Education about future use of the site, the Parish Council’s Community Projects Committee agreed to change the layout of the 2 areas, so that the planned use was more in accord with what the Department for Education wanted.

The latest plan can be viewed here.

As at January 2013 the latest site plan is being used as the basis for drawing up some plans for submission to the Planning Department to gain consent for a change of use and access to the site.

Nothing much happened in 2013, and we entered 2014 in a state of flux not knowing how and if the asset might be transferred.

It is likely that there will be some further consultation during 2014 – more details later on.

GREAT NEWS

Following the public consultation, the Parish Council engaged a solicitor to check the terms of the lease with the Isle of Wight Council for this important green space. At the end of August the lease was signed by both parties and the key to the padlock handed over to the Parish Clerk. A meeting will now be arranged for the Open Spaces Project working group to plan the future of the site. Please contact the clerk if you would like to be involved in this new project for the village.