A ROW has broken out over how to tackle a shortage of school places in the Wharfe Valley.

Politicians locked horns at City Hall on Tuesday as they discussed a petition demanding action on the problem.

Lead petitioner Peter Smeaton said the secondary school serving the area, Ilkley Grammar, was oversubscribed.

Mr Smeaton, a governor at the school, said it was “trying desperately to take on as many pupils as it can”, but that the problem would worsen under proposals in the Council’s emerging Local Plan to build 1,600 new homes in Addingham, Ilkley, Burley and Menston.

Mr Smeaton said the school had tried to secure funding from the Government to expand, but this had been unsuccessful. He said: “Government funding is not coming, despite our best efforts. All we can do is shout and scream.”

Michael Jameson, strategic director of children’s services, said there wasn’t sufficient demand to justify an entire new school.

Councillor Ralph Berry, executive member for children’s services, said the Council’s funding for creating new school places had been cut by 92 per cent, “so we can’t even look at putting up mobile or temporary buildings”.

And council leader David Green said the authority wasn’t allowed to take into account any proposed housing developments when planning school places.

He said: “The Department for Education don’t allow us to take into account potential additional pupils as part of any school expansion. It is absolutely farcical.

“I agree with you, but we have got to actually have those houses developed before we can start coming to the DfE to support school expansion.”

Local councillor Jackie Whiteley (Con, Wharfedale) said school places was one of the topics she was asked most frequently about.

She said school places were often funded through contributions from developers, called Section 106 agreements, but that in three weeks this scheme would end across the country and Bradford Council had not yet adopted its replacement, called the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

She said: “So from April there will be no money to support education anywhere in Bradford.

“Of course we must continue to press central government to provide funding, but perhaps the answer lies on our own doorstep.”

Cllr Whiteley said the Executive should be spending its money on new schools, rather than four planned new swimming pools.

Cllr Green will ask Cllr Berry to speak to governors at Ilkley Grammar about “what we can do to try and support them and relieve the pressure”.