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OLRG fights refusal of St Mary's School funding

9 December 2017

OLRG calls for Council decision on St Mary's School to be quashed because of flawed process.

OLRG is calling for Tandridge District Council's decision to refuse funding for a Multiple Use Games Area at St Mary's Junior School in Oxted to be quashed because it was not properly made.

Last week, OLRG Councillor Jackie Wren, sent a complaint to the Council about the way decisions are taken on how to spend money from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) which is a charge levied by the Council from developers to deliver infrastructure. The complaint was prompted by an inaccurate report on the St Mary's bid for CIL funding. Councillors, with the exception of Cllr Wren, voted to refuse the school's bid.

Cllr Wren asked for the formal minutes of the working group that had recommended refusal. She was told that there were no formal minutes and also that the Council did not intend to keep any in future. She then wrote to the Council's head of legal services pointing out the lack of transparency and accountability in the decision making process.

At Thursday's meeting of the full Council, it was announced that in future a new system will be used to decide how CIL money is spent and a properly accountable and minuted Committee will be set up to take decisions in a more transparent way.

One leading member of the Council's administration echoed Councillor Wren's comments from two weeks ago when the refusal was made. He said: 'I was dismayed to see that the Committee had decided not to contribute CIL to fund the multi use games area (MUGA) which the school needs to build. The playing field is unusable for much of the year as it gets heavily waterlogged. Without a MUGA, there will be nowhere for those children at the school to play or to do PE during the winter.'

After the meeting, Councillor Wren said: 'I was pleased to hear that OLRG's concerns have finally been taken on board and that the decisions about spending large sums of CIL money will be made more accountable. However, it's clear the process resulting in the St Mary's refusal was flawed and so I am now asking for the decision to be quashed and for the St Mary's bid to be reconsidered immediately.'

St Mary's is due to merge with Downs Way School in September 2018 and is being expanded because additional capacity is required by Surrey County Council at Junior level due to the effects of development (Downs Way Infant School having already increased capacity at infant level) . The Junior part of the merged school will have 480 places at Junior level which is a 120 place expansion. The merged Primary school will accommodate 660 pupils when full. The additional sports facility will be essential to provide adequate sports facilities for the increased pupil numbers, as well as providing essential playground space.

The project is crucial for the school. It is not to improve the current provision - it would be the only playing area provision available for most of the year because of flooding. It's hard to see how the St Mary's bid could be a better fit for CIL funding. It meets all three of the Council's stated priorities which are education, health and flood mitigation, and it is needed because of the effects of development.

Children, parents and the PTA have worked incredibly hard to raise the vast majority of the money with everything from cake sales to sponsored walks. The Games Area would be available for use by local sports organisations and groups so would be a community asset.

If you would like any more information or to see OLRG's correspondence with the Council, just let us know.

24 November 2017

OLRG is pressing Tandridge District Council to reconsider its refusal to grant any funding for a new Multiple Use Games Area at St Mary's Junior School in Silkham Road in Oxted.

Last week, Councillors, with the exception of OLRG's Jackie Wren, voted to turn down a bid by St Mary's for a contribution towards the Games Area from the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) which is a charge levied by the Council from developers to deliver infrastructure in the area.

Councillor Wren, who represents the Oxted North & Tandridge Ward which covers St Mary's, has written to the Council setting out why the St Mary's bid should be reconsidered and why the refusal was made on an incorrect assessment.

To read her letter click here

If you feel St Mary's should have the grant, please email the Council leader, Martin Fisher, another Oxted North & Tandridge Councillor, at Cllr.martin.fisher@tandridgedc.gov.uk asking him to reconsider the decision to refuse funding.

If you would like to donate to St Mary's School as result of this, the easiest way to make a donation is via their JustGiving page
click here

Photo by Kevin Black shows St Mary's headteacher Sarah Lewis discussing the games area project with Councillor Wren