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Letter: What Future Will Future Children Have If These Proposals Are Passed

From David Roberts

The Raleigh School in West Horsley is asking residents to complete a survey questionnaire designed to mobilise support for moving the school to a local green-field site.  They should not let themselves be fooled by this superficially attractive plan.

First of all, it probably won’t ever happen.  The site, designated as A41 in Guildford’s initial draft Local Plan, has been dropped from the version the council is now submitting to the government for approval.  The school should now accept it is a lost cause.  A survey consisting of transparently leading questions, completed by people with a personal vested interest, won’t make any difference.  It won’t even provide any new information.

Secondly, the plan with its “enabling development” is over-leveraged.  The headteacher and governors assert that “the simple truth is that without new houses there can be no new school.”  If the truth is really that simple, they should drop the idea.

As in the case of the Howard of Effingham project, new housing only creates new demand for school places, leaving local educational capacity back where it started.  Meanwhile, many fine schools in other parts of the country (I can speak for North Wales) are closing for want of pupils.

There is another “simple truth”: if you can’t afford it, don’t build it.  State education should be funded from state resources, through increased taxes if necessary, or else by parents from their own pockets, and not through property speculation.

The current plan is to build 30 houses on the old Raleigh site and 10 on the new one.  But we all know that once at the planning permission stage, the project’s backers will magically discover that the numbers must be greatly increased to make it commercially “viable”.

It is common too for the initial investors, once planning is granted and they can exit with a financial killing, to sell the asset on to less scrupulous developers.

If I were a Raleigh parent, I would want the school’s leaders to focus on my child’s education rather than a selfish redevelopment project that will divert all their energy.

The danger is obvious: teachers and governors – public servants – run the risk of becoming the stooges of big property corporations and international investors who dominate local housebuilding, giving a veneer of social respectability to private profiteering.

Regarding their slanted questionnaire, the headteacher and chair of governors say that “sadly, it is people who are against progress who usually respond.”  This patronising lament worries me more than anything.  What sort of “progress” is it that involves encroaching on the green belt and what kind of values are they imparting to local young minds?

The Horsleys are already under siege from development: four sites in the local plan involving 395 new houses, the threat of over 2,000 new homes in nearby Ockham, an approved scheme to dump mountains of waste matter at The Drift golf course, an unwanted “SANG”, or urban park, in rural Long Reach designed to justify new housing estates nearby…  The list keeps getting longer.

These projects will destroy forever the rural character of the Horsleys, clogging our roads with traffic and endangering the lives of our kids.

If our educators won’t set an example, who will?  Instead of conniving at destroying the green belt, the Raleigh School should stand up for the solid benefits it brings to everyone, especially our children.

This is urgent: Guildford council wants to put 70% of new housing in the countryside and 58% in the green belt, ignoring the national policy requirement for “exceptional circumstances”.

What sort of future will Raleigh pupils face without green space to walk and play in, with less farming, with depleted wildlife, with traffic too thick to cycle through, with worse flooding, with dirtier air and noisier streets?  Their physical and mental health and wellbeing demand a more thoughtful approach.

It may be only anecdotal that, taught for years in 1940s Nissan huts, I still managed to graduate from Oxford.  But there is more to education than real estate.

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2 Responses to Letter: What Future Will Future Children Have If These Proposals Are Passed

  1. Sue Reeve Reply

    December 5, 2017 at 7:31 am

    Hear, hear. It is not for developers to drive our infrastructure projects, and doesn’t the land, on which the Raleigh School currently sits, belong to SCC and is therefore not for the Raleigh to swap?

    On another point, we should ask, do we need a new school? What proportion of the Raleigh pupils actually come from the Horsleys? Is the “need” for new places for Horsley children driven by the fact that a significant number on the roll come from further afield?

    Regardless of the need, or otherwise, for a new school, site A41 is entirely inappropriate. It is very definitely green belt land adjacent to an old and attractive part of the village with grade II listed historic buildings next door. Development here would blight the area which was why it was removed from the draft Local Plan.

    From an access point of view, it couldn’t be more unsuitable, busy corner on the main road through the village. Most people would drive and children would need to cross the road to get to the entrance.

    The article requesting participation suggested most responses would be negative because only people against progress would respond. Rather offensive, in my view.

  2. John Fox Reply

    December 6, 2017 at 7:48 pm

    Is there a common landowner driving this agenda in the Horsley’s?

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