Free school gets green light

Plans for the proposed Gildredge House Free School have been given the green light.

The planning application to turn the former Dental Estimates Board in Compton Place Road, Old Town, in to a school was approved by Eastbourne Borough Council’s planning committee at the Town Hall on Tuesday evening (May 21). It will provide education for children in reception through to sixth form. The planning application, which includes demolition of the prefab buildings and construction of new purpose-built facilities including a sports hall, was agreed unanimously by councillors.

Contractors moved in to start building work the very next day, to make sure the school opens to the first Reception and Year Seven intake for the new academic year in September this year.

Lea Gilbert, headmistress, spoke to councillors at the meeting about the plans and the free school.

Speaking after the meeting, she said, “We were confident that the planning application had many aspects to recommend it, but we all breathed a huge sigh of relief when the announcement was made yesterday evening and have not stopped smiling since.

“We now look forward to changing our registered address to Compton Place Road and, most importantly, to starting the renovations ready to welcome our first pupils in September.”

With just 15 weeks to go until opening, the schedule for the phase one conversion is tight but a spokesperson from the trust for the school says it is achievable.

Mrs Lea Gilbert said, “We are absolutely delighted that planning permission has been granted and that the contractors can now prepare to make these fantastic visuals a reality. Ultimately, however, the school is about its pupils and I look forward to welcoming our ‘pioneers’, the first Year Seven and Reception cohorts who are going to help us realise this vision of excellence for the school.”

There were no objectors speaking at the meeting. However, Pat Rodohan, who has been recently elected as county councillor for Upperton, spoke at the meeting and said he did not object to the plans on the site but was concerned about traffic on the narrow Borough Lane. He suggested the road should be made one-way. The planning committee agreed to send a letter to the county council highlighting the concern.

John Ungar, chair of the planning committee, said, “I think these plans for the physical changes will be an improvement on what’s there at the moment.” He said that everyone had different views on free schools, but that was a central government issue.