New school for Copthorne ‘should not be given away lightly’

A fund set up in the wake of the Shoreham air disaster has received more than �15,000
A fund set up in the wake of the Shoreham air disaster has received more than �15,000

Doubt have been raised over whether a new school promised for Copthorne will actually be delivered.

Plans for up to 500 new homes off the M23 and the A264 were approved last August, which included employment space, a primary school, allotments and some health provision.

However several members of Mid Sussex District Council’s Planning Committee expressed concern at proposed changes to the development’s legal agreement allowing West Sussex County Council the option to seek a financial contribution towards education provision instead of a new school.

Speaking at a meeting on Thursday (August 6) Edward Matthews (Con, Copthorne and Worth) said: “I’m not happy with this at all. It’s all ifs and buts.”

He asked if a £3m contribution would be guaranteed to be spent in Copthorne, and added: “It’s been a year, this should have been sorted out by now.”

He continued: “Copthorne is taking 500 houses and I think they deserve better than this. If they are going to take that huge amount I think they deserve better.”

Officers explained that changes to the proposed legal agreement, which sets out developer contributions to infrastructure, were because WSCC had asked for some flexibility if they decided the best course of action was to remodel the existing schools.

Meanwhile regarding on-site health provision, they said the health authority had asked for a financial contribution rather than any building space on the development itself.

Phillip Coote (Con, Crawley Down and Turners Hill) told the committee how he knew one pregnant mother who was already sending her two children to separate primary schools in East Grinstead and Turners Hill.

He added: “There’s no room to make the existing junior school in Copthorne any bigger. It’s up to its eyes in muck and bullets.”

Ginny Heard (Con, Burgess Hill - Franklands) said: “Residents of Copthorne think they are getting a primary school and they should be given a primary school. A new primary school is a new primary school and I do not think we should be giving it away lightly.”

Colin Trumble (Con, Hurstpierpoint and Downs) added: “St Modwen [the developer] do not appear to be the villain, it’s West Sussex County Council, it’s the health authority. It’s these peole who are putting in the spanners.”

A vote to defer the plans split the committee five for and five against, with chairman of the committee Robert Salisbury (Con, Cuckfield) casting the deciding vote against deferring the item.

It was then agreed to accept the recommendation, which will authorised officers to complete the legal agreement with variations that they deem appropriate.

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