HAILSHAM: U-turn hits education funding for town

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SCHOOL pupils in Hailsham have lost out on more than £2.5m towards a new primary and secondary school after the developers of two major housing schemes were released from paying education contributions.

The developers of Welbury and Woodholm Farms, where permission has been granted for 460 new homes and the former Hellingly Hospital site where 400 homes are due to be built, will no longer pay towards land for primary and secondary schools or extra secondary school places after Wealden District Council amended an earlier 106 agreement at a planning meeting on Thursday December 9.

The move comes after a U-turn by the local education authority East Sussex County Council, which said there was surplus capacity in Hailsham’s schools and it no longer required the money to fund extra school places.

In a report to the meeting, East Sussex County Council figures showed 167 spare places across the year groups in primary schools and 255 secondary places which would need to be filled before further education contributions are sought from developers.

But in the same report, county council admits, “Both primary and secondary permanent place

“Assessments show that within Hailsham we will experience a shortfall of places within the next few years when assessing on permanent places.”

Planning officer Kelvin Williams said Wealden Council faced an appeal by both the developers if it ignored the advice of the county and refused to delete the contributions of between £54k to £61k from each site towards land costs for a new primary school as well as £1.2m and £1.3m a piece to fund secondary school places.

“The reality is, that is really worth going to appeal for,” he said.

“We have been back probably three to four times to county to qualify these figures. They are the Statuary Education Authority. They are telling us they have an over supply,” he added.

Wealden District Council said its hands were tied over the decision to delete the education contributions.

Cllr Ann Newton said, “What choice do we have? They are the education authority. If only we could put a bullet to their head. At the end of the recommendation, if this goes wrong, we hold it to you.”

“East Sussex County Council are not on my Christmas card list,” she added.

East Sussex County Council’s report concluded, “Providing additional school places can be a protracted process and does not happen quickly and therefore it is important that at ESCC we continue to be on top of the position of school places across the county.

“This is done through the school place planning process and Hailsham is not exception to this.”