Stoke Middle School site - Round two

Well . . . since my piece in the February Newsletter, and still more since we all got the letter from Suffolk County Council, my phone has been ringing off the hook.   You are sending me two messages.   First, just who are these people who want to set up a school here?   Second, how much better it would be to have the site and buildings used as a school, and providing some jobs for local people, rather than have it bulldozed and turned into a building site for dozens of houses like those brick boxes we see around Colchester.

Obviously, when I wrote my piece in the February Newsletter, I had no idea this was about to emerge.   We would all like to know who these new school people are.   But SCC have told us, firmly and repeatedly, that this has to be kept confidential for the moment, to comply with the complicated legal processes to do with disposing of schools and playing fields.

Don’t ask me to explain why.   But we must respect this.   Because keeping it as a school is so much better than the alternative, we really really do not want to jeopardise this process.   The letter from SCC talks about a “time-limited approach”:  if they get bogged down in appeals, disputes and litigation, these new school people will have to look elsewhere, and the bulldozers will come in.  So if you know what the prospective school is - or think you know -  because, believe you me, not all the theories circulating round the village can be right -  please keep it to yourself.

I know it is hard to come to a conclusion, not knowing who these people are.   I have told SCC that they must tell us as soon as possible, if they want feedback from the community.

But let’s be realistic.   SCC are not going to entertain proposals from some dodgy set up.   We’re talking about some existing school, if it’s got to be that quick.   An existing private school may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s most unlikely to be a headache for us – after all, there have got to be 100+ parents choosing to send their own children there.

The Parish Council now want to get on with the positive side to all this – the possibility of some new affordable housing, some “down-sizer” housing, some purpose-built old people’s housing, with any social housing permanently under local control.   The SCC letter mentions this, which is good.

It’s a huge project for organisations as tiny as Stoke Parish Council and the Lady Anne Windsor Charity.  But this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so we must do our best to grasp it.

We’ll take every opportunity to keep you in touch - you may have heard me on Radio Suffolk on Thursday 21 February, doing just that.

Una Oakes
Chairman, Stoke by Nayland Parish Council