Schools chiefs under fire for sale of Bramhope School caretaker's house

Wharfedale Observer: MP Greg Mulholland has written to Leeds City Council asking for an explanation over the sale of the caretaker's house at Bramhope Primary School MP Greg Mulholland has written to Leeds City Council asking for an explanation over the sale of the caretaker's house at Bramhope Primary School

A council has been criticised for selling off a caretaker’s house amid fears of an area-wide crisis in school places.

The house at Bramhope Primary was sold despite a suggestion that it should be used to help accommodate extra pupils.

The move has astonished the area’s MP Greg Mulholland, who has written to Leeds City Council asking for an explanation.

Mr Mulholland sent his letter to the council’s chief executive Tom Riordan after meeting with a number of headteachers to hear their concerns about a potential crisis in school places.

Representatives from the Otley family of schools – which includes Bramhope, Pool and Adel – told the MP they were concerned about the impact of about 2,000 new homes expected to be built in the area.

In his letter Mr Muholland says there is enormous concern about the scale of future housing development – with the Leeds site allocation consultation document showing existing permissions for 994 homes and an including a further 1192 as amber sites.

“Miller Homes’ application for 380 dwellings on a PAS site in Bramhope is currently under consideration and, amongst other concerns, families living in Bramhope are extremely anxious about the provision of school places should this application be approved,” he said.

“Access to village schools is a key issue in small communities and requiring infant children from Bramhope to travel to schools elsewhere would be massively unpopular and have a dramatically divisive impact on the whole village.

“Against this background I was astonished to learn that Leeds City Council had recently sold off the caretaker's house at the school. The school had discussed with the authority the possibility of moving their nursery classes to the house, thus creating space within the main school to accommodate a greater number of children. This opportunity has now been lost. I find the decision to dispose of the house short-sighted in the extreme and am baffled that such an obvious and straightforward way of accommodating more children in the school has been thrown out by the Council. “I would therefore appreciate an explanation of why the school’s suggestion of conversion to useable education space was not investigated further.”

Representatives from the Otley Family of Schools met MP Greg Mulholland (Lib Dem, Leeds North West) last Friday to discuss their anxieties about the impact of an influx of anticipated new homes.

Under the Local Development Framework, Leeds is in line for some 70,000 new houses over the next 15 years, with about 2,000 of those to be built in Otley, Pool, Bramhope and Adel.

The Otley Family of Schools consists of primaries from all those areas, along with Prince Henry's Grammar School, the venue for last week's meeting.

Mr Mulholland said everyone was keen to avoid a repeat of 2012, when a lack of available school places left some parents in Otley facing the prospect of sending their children miles away – until Ashfield Primary agreed to take in additional children.

He said: “We have already seen the impact of a shortage of school places in Otley, something that is distressing for local families and very stressful for our local schools and their headteachers.

“We mustn’t see a repeat of this and plans must be put in place now to avoid this happening.”

Mr Mulholland argues that the new housing should only proceed if local services, including schools, doctors and dentists, have capacity to cope with it.

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