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County council criticised for not snapping up former school building
Peter Symonds College, which runs the adult education centre (ACE) in Stoney Lane, Weeke, has been negotiating with Cala, the developer of the 2,000-home estate on the greenfield site, for a plot to build new premises.
But now Liberal Democrat opposition spokesman for adult services, Cllr Jackie Porter, has hit out at the county council for failing to snap up the building to tackle the shortage of primary school places.
The ACE centre was previously Weeke Infant School.
Cllr Porter said: “What a waste of a good solid building. It already has a good school hall and playground space.”
Cllr Porter argued it would have been cheaper and easier to enlarge Weeke Primary School by expanding onto the ACE centre, than building a new primary school in car-clogged Fulfood.
The county council is spending £7.6m of public money building a new primary school at The Westgate in Fulflood.
Cllr Porter said the four Liberal Democrat city councillors had asked officers to investigate whether the ACE centre was available as one of six sites considered for a new school.
She said: “Hampshire County Council would have needed to pay for the site but that would have been worthwhile because building costs would have been much lower.”
Cllr Peter Edgar, executive member for education at the county council, defended the council, saying: “At the time of the consultation and a decision about meeting the increased demand for school places in Winchester, we were clearly informed that Peter Symonds College had a continuing need for the building in Stoney Lane.
“It was therefore not considered further as an option. That position was re-checked before decisions were progressed. The subsequent proposal by the college to relocate its adult education centre to Barton Farm has only recently come about, and was not brought to Hampshire County Council’s attention until our decisions were taken and progressed.”
Cllr Edgar said even if the building had been available it would not necessarily have been a cheaper option, as the council would have to buy the building and refurbish it.
The education chief said more school places would be provided by the new primary at The Westgate.
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