Action group calls for ‘neutral’ venue for development display

Local action group Realistic Reepham has called on Reepham High School & College to cancel an information display regarding the proposed housing development close to the school (off Broomhill Lane) or move it to a “neutral” venue.

Reepham High School © Ian Robertson and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence

The exhibition will take place on 11 November from 4.45 pm to 6.45 pm in the school’s sports hall.
In a letter addressed to the school’s principal, Mark Farrar, the campaign group, which opposes any large-scale development outside the town’s existing settlement limit, said it had been contacted by a number of “disgruntled” Reepham residents and parents regarding a letter from the school dated 6 November.
Realistic Reepham said the letter “seems to have been written without any real appreciation of the High School’s position in the community, and its responsibilities to that community”.
“The school has a responsibility to accept, without prejudice, any benefits that might come to it from development proposals. Here, however, we are seeing heavy promotion by the High School of a poorly scoped scheme that has no presented tangible corroborative facts or figures; the promises of school and community facilities made by the developer may be regarded as no more than aspirations and suggestions.”
While the action group recognises that the school needs facilities now and in the future, “it appears to be a mismatch of needs versus desires to target a sports hall over provision of proper classrooms for pupils”, adding that the sports hall is “clearly a political means to encourage popular support in Reepham for a development on one particular site, in preference to others.
“This promotion by the school to encourage parents to complete consultation forms in favour of the Broomhill Lane site is an unseemly violation of your responsibility as educators.”
Realistic Reepham asked the principal to either cancel the event or hold it in an “independent” public venue, such as Stimpson’s Piece, the Town Hall or St Michael’s, which have been used by other developers and promoters of sites considered in the debates about housing expansion in Reepham over the past two years.
In response, Mr Farrar said the event will go ahead at the school on Monday as planned, adding that the land agent would be happy to hold a second exhibition in Reepham if the campaign group requests this.
He stressed that the school had not asked for “positive comments” from parents as Realistic Reepham has asserted, but asked that the local community consider the proposal and make comments, either on the evening itself or through Broadland District Council’s Consultation Portal.
“Normally, the school remains entirely neutral on proposed housing developments in the town,” Mr Farrar told parents. “Because this development, however, gives the school the opportunity to acquire a modern and suitably sized sports hall, we support the proposal.
“You will be aware how inadequate our current sports hall is for a school of our size. You will also be aware how limited indoor sporting provision is for the local community at weekends and evenings.”
Adding that the school did not instigate the building proposal, Mr Farrar explained: “I hope the people of Reepham understand that my responsibility is to deliver the best quality education possible for the young people of our catchment area.
“If houses are to be built in Reepham (and this is not my decision nor is it something we have promoted), then I have to support the proposal that allows us to improve the quality of the education offered to our pupils.”
The Broomhill Lane proposal for 100-120 houses is one of two potential new sites for housing in Reepham for which Broadland is currently holding a six-week public consultation; this closes at 5 pm on Monday 25 November.
See our earlier news stories:
Another consultation on new housing development sites
RHSC plans to build community sports facility

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