A Victory for Common Sense
The Save Woolmer Green Campaign has recently learnt that the We Need a School (WNAS) Free School application to build an 800+ pupil secondary school in or around Woolmer Green or Knebworth on The Green Belt has been rejected by the Department for Education (DfE).
The welcome news came in the form of a telephone call from the DfE who explained that they had not approved the WNAS business case along with all the other Free School applications but that WNAS could re-apply under the new Free Schools process if they wished. However, the Save Woolmer Green group understands that WNAS will not be re-applying on June 1st.
Save Woolmer Green Campaign spokesperson Gareth Lloyd said “The Save Woolmer Green Campaign considers the rejection of WNAS plans by the DfE to be a victory for common sense against unnecessary development of a new build school that the local community neither needs nor wants on The Green Belt. The views of the majority have finally been recognised resulting in the threat to village life being lifted”.
The Save Woolmer Green campaign group, set up to oppose these proposals, would like to take this opportunity of thanking all of our supporters and the 2000+ residents that signed our petition against the WNAS proposal as well as the very generous donations from local residents and businesses.
Thursday 31st March 2011 at 7:30pm
Woolmer Green Village Hall
Please be there to show your support
The Hertfordshire Free School being promoted by the “We Need a School” group (WNAS), which is attempting to build a secondary school for 800+ children and 100+ staff on green belt land in or around the small villages of Woolmer Green and Knebworth, had their Free School Stage 2 application approved formally by the Department for Education (DfE) on 14th January 2011.
In their stage 2 application the WNAS group stated that they have “attracted over 1200 names in support of a new local secondary school”. On the 16th February our group the “Save Woolmer Green” Campaign sent a Freedom of Information (FoI) request (http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/evidence_of_demand_in_we_need_a) to the DfE to find out if they had received a copy of the WNAS petition which forms the mainstay of the WNAS Free School application and if so, had they indeed validated the petition.
We already knew that WNAS had received 1000 of their 1200 signatures by July 2009, which was before Free Schools were even on the cards as it was before the General Election. Not only that but the school they were planning was going to be built in a completely different location. We wanted to gain an understanding of where exactly WNAS have garnered this alleged support from.
We were shocked, however to discover that not only had the Department for Education failed to validate the petition they had not even received or requested a copy of it. We find it inconceivable that the DfE simply wave through Free School applications to the business case stage without proper and rigorous substantiation of the ‘evidence of demand’.
We note that the DfE states “Evidence of demand and local support are essential components of a strong Business Case and the group will need to demonstrate that they have consulted widely on their proposal.” We ask that the Department for Education (DfE) obtain a copy of the WNAS petition and validate it as soon as possible to ensure that the WNAS support is bona fide.
We implore the DfE to examine the WNAS evidence carefully; In their Stage 2 application WNAS used admission figures from 2009 as evidence in support of their application even though more favourable 2010 figures were available at the time of their application. They said: “Knebworth has the biggest allocation problem with 33% not getting ANY of their 3 choices”. Ignoring the fact that the other villages in the area had no such problem in 2009 or 2010, the very latest figures from 2011 show that 100% of children from Knebworth received a ranked choice and that overall around 96% of children in the villages concerned received a ranked choice. It is our opinion that the figures that WNAS have used are out of date and should not be relied upon as “Evidence of Demand” for a new secondary school. We request the DfE reconsider the WNAS “Evidence of Demand”. Indeed, as there now appears to be no requirement at all for a new school we request that the DfE reject the “We Need a School” Free School application altogether.
The “Save Woolmer Green” Campaign
The founder and chairperson of “We need a school” (WNAS) appears to have quit suddenly today citing the toll the process has taken on her family life.
We also have unconfirmed reports that two other prominent members of the WNAS team have left including a director and a member of their fund raising team. Both appear to have been with the group since 2009 and one even went to Number 10 to visit the Prime Minister and Michael Gove the Education Secretary along with their leader Juliet Pomerance.
“For three prominent members of WNAS to leave just as the group were on the verge of receiving government approval for their scheme is quite unbelievable” said a member of the ‘Save Woolmer Green Campaign’ and a long term resident of Woolmer Green. He added, “Perhaps they have finally realised that their huge secondary school is neither needed nor wanted in the small rural village of Woolmer Green”. Perhaps indeed they have taken notice of Richard Thake, Executive member for education and skills at Herts County Council who was quoted as saying “We’d be looking to support a Free School only if it’s in the right place, and a school in Knebworth or Woolmer Green is not where the most demand is.”
It is unclear who is running their campaign now but we understand that Andy Payne, who is not listed at companies house as a director of ‘We Need a School Ltd’, is still there along with sole remaining founding director Stephen Ingrey who we believe to be their accountant.
We believe that WNAS previously lost their Woolmer Green liaison officer around a year ago so we’re also unsure if they have anyone left on their governing committee that lives in the village that they want to build their 800+ pupil/100+ staff secondary school in.
Thursday 10th February 2011
Concerned residents turned out in the hundreds last night to voice opposition to the “We Need a School Ltd” (WNAS) plans to build a secondary school on green belt land in or around Woolmer Green. Many residents had to stand as there wasn’t enough seating to accommodate everyone. Also present at the meeting were a number of Parish & Borough councillors and some members of the press.
Our recently formed group the “Save Woolmer Green Campaign” was present at the meeting and had been invited to make a 15 minute presentation. At the last minute however (23:44 the night before), we were informed by the Parish Council that we would no longer able to make a presentation and that we should instead submit a 500 word statement.
A lengthy 5 page statement was read out for the WNAS group after which the Parish Council read out our single page statement.
Towards the end of the meeting a member of the public asked for a show of hands for those in support of the school. We didn’t see a single hand raised. The Parish Council refused to ask for a show of hands for those opposing the school but another member of the public asked the room anyway and the response was overwhelming with almost the whole room putting their hand up to show that we, the locals of Woolmer green DO NOT want this school in Woolmer Green.
Please feel free to add any comments, information or ideas you may have to help stop the building of a school in the Woolmer Green/Knebworth area.
There has been no voice of opposition against this proposed school so far but the cat is now truly out of the bag. If you object to having a large secondary school along with all the issues that it will bring to a small rural village then please join in with the discussion, please sign the petition and please if you can help us to oppose these plans. Please pass on the link to this site to people whose lives will be affected.
The “We need a school” (WNAS) group claim they have 1200 signatures on their petition in favour of a huge new school. We are aiming to collect 1200 names of local people who are against the school. Whether you are opposed to building on green belt or against the type of school they are building or against the disruption to the village way of life or even the potential traffic chaos, please sign our petition and please help us in any way you can.
The WNAS group said at a recent meeting that if the residents of Woolmer Green were opposed to their plans to build a new school in the village then they would drop their plans. Please help us to keep them to their word.
A company called “We Need A School Ltd” (WNAS) are running a campaign to build a LARGE secondary school for approximately 800+ children and 100+ staff in or around the village of Woolmer Green.
So far there are 5 known proposed sites within Woolmer Green, Knebworth and the Datchworth area where WNAS are trying to secure GREEN BELT LAND and build this new school.
These 5 sites are the ones that are known about but the WNAS group recently told a locally held meeting at the beginning of December that there were other sites being looked into around the area that were not being divulged at the moment.
Many consider Woolmer Green is far too small for the proposed size of this secondary school smack in the heart of this rural village. To begin with we do not have enough children of secondary school age in this village or in the surrounding villages to make a school like this financially viable.
The school will have to be built on GREEN BELT LAND destroying our beautiful surrounding countryside and wildlife.
The infrastructure of our local roads will not be able to cope with the extra traffic generated by cars during the school run. There could be approximately 4-500+ extra vehicles using London Road at these peak times.
Please look at all the information on this site, add your views and comments, join the site and support NOT having a secondary school in OUR village by signing the petition.
We Need a School have publicly stated: “If the school is built, it will be because the local community wants it built. It will not be forced onto the community, or else it would defeat its purpose of being a locally supported community school.” We sincerely believe that the local community DOES NOT want this school and DOES NOT need this school.
If you agree with us then please sign our petition and please help us in any way you can. Our village way of life is in grave danger.