School ‘let down’ by Developers

School ‘let down’ by Developers

19th October 2018 Off By folss_admin

Leonard Stanley Primary School are feeling very, very disappointed and extremely let down by David Wilson Homes (part of Barratts Developments PLC) as work and materials promised by them, to improve the School’s Outdoor Learning areas have not materialised in the past 18 months. Despite an initial letter sent to Barratts Group Head of Corporate Sustainability Sarah Pratt by Jo Byrne (Chair of FOLSS – PTFA) back in April 2017, endless phone calls and emails from School staff, and one site visit 5 months ago by DWH nothing has happened.

The School has felt the impact of the 150 home development in the Mankley Field next to the School site for the past 2 years. The road outside the School leading to the development site saw a large amount of heavy construction traffic in 2017, some of which was seen speeding past the school, riding pavements (with children and parents walking along them), using the School entrance to reverse and turn in and travelling through the village outside of an agreed ‘time slot’ to avoid drop off and pick up times, thus making the immediate area area outside the School a very dangerous place to be.

Once work had got underway on the site a new road had to be created that leads out onto the same road as the School (Bath Road). Carriageway changes meant the creation of a new footpath and the removal of 100ft of mature hedgerow and trees along the road edge of the School site, that not only was an important wildlife habitat but also acted as a screen to shield the children from undue attention whilst outside on the playground and playing field. No offer of replacement hedgerow was ever offered. A wire see-through fence instead was installed after the School fought for a suitable alternative, after being told they would be left with old broken wire fencing that was unearthed after the hedge removal. See images.

With the development coming into its final phases the School is now at full capacity with children from the development now attending the School, and with an incident of trespassing by some residents of the Saxon Gate estate, the School has and will continue to feel the effects of this development for years to come.

After numerous excuses from DWH (change of staff, end of year etc.) and a lot of time, effort and communication on the part of School staff (no offers were made by DWH/Barratts to engage with the School at all) a site visit was undertaken on Monday 21st May 2018

Two representatives from DWH then visited the School for a walk-around with key staff and a School Governor.

A ‘Priority for Action’ was discussed – clearance and levelling of the overgrown/uneven area at the top of KS1 playground, behind the PTFA (FOLSS) storage shed. Provision of a mini-digger (plus driver) and a working party of labourers to make the area serviceable for use by the children as another ‘Outdoor Learning Space’.  The staff discussed at length how long it had taken volunteers at school to undertake a similar project on the area behind the pool, over a series of working party days and with the need to fundraise and borrow equipment/machinery. They emphasised that this issue (along with helping to ‘fill the gap’) was the area where DWH could provide most immediate assistance and have a long-lasting positive impact.

At the time, DWH reps seemed positive about being able to provide assistance during the May half-term break or, failing that, summer holiday.  The School noted that access to the school site could be arranged at whatever time was convenient for them – via the trackway gate. SO FAR THERE HAS BEEN NO ASSISTANCE AT ALL!

Materials requested (for application in various places around the school site):
• guttering, drainpipes and fixtures/brackets – for outdoor classroom shelter roof
• water butts
• small cable drums
• plywood sheet – for blackboard in outdoor classroom
• top soil – to supplement various growing areas/raised beds
• wheelbarrow – our school wheelbarrow was broken at that time
• tree saplings – fruit trees would be great
• ‘quicks’ – rapid growing hedge/shrub plants – to fill the gap at the front of School where the mature hedge was removed
• timber – for outdoor classroom shelter walls, poly tunnel door frame and to replace YR outside area fence post/gate
• heavy duty transparent plastic sheeting – to repair poly tunnel
• miscellaneous screws/nails (any sizes) – for ongoing outdoor maintenance around school
• corrugated roofing sheet – for creation of canopy/shaded area outside Y1 classroom – the Y1 children talked to the DWH reps about this need!

Despite this site visit no usable materials or help has materialised! Instead the School after yet another phone call to them took delivery (on a weekend) of some old drums that cannot be used as water butts and which will cost the School money to dispose of along with some pipes and a few bits of timber. All-in-all a measly ‘community’ contribution on the part of a company who have profited greatly from the loss of a field, a land purchase and development of housing.

As one of the key community focal points in the Leonard Stanley village, the School had hoped to build a strong community based relationship with David Wilson Homes who via the Barratts Developments PLC Community Policy available on their website quote:

“Only by listening and responding to local communities will we be able to do so. Accordingly, we make every effort to respond to concerns surrounding proposed developments, as well as promoting awareness of the long term community benefits they deliver. We adopt design principles based on ‘Building for Life’ and designing developments which look great, are pleasure to live on, and will enhance local communities for years to come. “

They also go on to quote that they:

•  Champion community projects in partnership with local schools, charities and other community organisations to promote community cohesion.
•  Promote charitable giving and active volunteering in communities amongst our employees.
•  Integrate focused local community engagement into every stage of the development process from pre-planning, through build and beyond.
•  Provide or fund appropriate physical and community infrastructures to ensure a positive legacy is left beyond our involvement. 

As an Outdoor Learning Accredited School, it was hoped that DWH could supply the School with some much needed materials that would otherwise end up as waste, some much needed manpower and equipment that could be used to make the Outdoor Learning Space safe and ready to be utilised. To quote their Sustainability Policy:

• Helping improve the quality of life and economic prosperity of the communities and individuals we serve.

To recap:
1) The School have tried to engage with DWH/Barratts over the last 18 months to see if they can assist the School with no action taken on DWH/Barratts part.
2) A large stretch of wildlife habitat and school ‘screening’ was removed as part of the pedestrian/road works linked to the development in 2017.
3) Large construction vehicles numerous times were witnessed ‘speeding’ past the school, outside of the agreed ‘timeframe’ for such activity. Construction vehicles were also seen using the school entrance as a turning/reversing area.
4) The School is now at ‘full capacity’ with the addition of numerous children from the development.
5) The School has had problems with some people from the development (reported to police and identity confirmed) trespassing onto the School site via the fence that bounds the School and the GCC/Development land.
6) There has been 1 delivery of materials which are not fit for use. For example, drums that we would have to pay to recycle and which cannot be used as water butts (as requested by the School – see list above).
7) DWH throws away a large quantity of materials that could be utilised at the School.
8) The general impact the development has had on the community, loss of a field, increased traffic, increased population etc.
9) DWH/Barratts do not appear to be ‘living out’ their Community/Sustainability Policies in relation to the School (see above). The School being a fundamental part of the ‘community’.

To quote PTFA Chair Jo Byrne:

“We have fundraised and have been lucky enough to have had a dedicated team of staff and parent volunteers to help us clear an unusable area on the School grounds, to make way for an outdoor classroom (which we built ourselves). We had approached the developers nearly 2 years ago for assistance with materials or labour to help us, but our plea’s went unheard. We are not asking for a massive injection of capital, expensive materials or a team of 50 people! Now 18 months on we have still not had any tangible positive engagement from DWH/Barratts, and we feel that they are more concerned with selling their homes than involving themselves in a community who have been affected in some way by the building of 150 houses within their village.”

After yet another chase by the the Headmaster this month a meeting was scheduled with DWH for Thursday 20th September, but was cancelled by them 10 minutes before it was due to start. Staff, a School Governor and PTFA Chair had arranged their teaching and busy diaries to accommodate the meeting and were left wandering what it would take to get some action from DWH.

s106 Payments
The s106 ‘payment’ by the Developer is obligatory under current planning legislation, paid to the District Council and is calculated in accordance with the expected “cost” per new primary school child expected from the development. Calculations are based on the additional amount of children, and thus school places, that the development would generate, referred to as TPR (total places required). The TPR is then multiplied by the Department for Education’s school building costs per pupil place, known as the cost multiplier. School Contributions = TPR x cost multiplier. The TPR is determined by the number of year groups in each school category multiplied by the child product. TPR = (Number of year groups) x (child product). Child product is the adjusted education population multiplied by the average amount of children, taken to be 14 children per year of age per 1,000 persons for houses and bungalow (average figure taken from 2001 Census). For flats and maisonettes, the average number is five children per year per 1,000 persons. Child Product = Adjusted Population x 14/1,000 (or 5/1,000 for flats). The adjusted education population for the child product excludes population generated from one-bed units, sheltered and 55+ age-restricted housing, and social-rented housing on a district by district basis according to supplementary planning guidance, as a nil child product is assumed for these dwellings. The cost multiplier is a figure released by the Department for Education. It is a school building cost per pupil place as at 2018/2019, updated by Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ Building Cost Information Service’s All-In Tender Price Index.

This amount is then paid by the developer to the District Council, it is not paid ‘directly’ to the School. However, whilst the school can apply for a proportion of this money, not only are there are strict criteria governing how it can be spent (so not on curriculum, equipment, staffing, critical funding needs etc.). It can only be used to build new accommodation/facilities (classroom/extension) that will house pupils, the cost of any building work invariably significantly exceeds (given you can’t get a house extension for much less than 50K) the potential sum paid leaving the school with a net disbenefit as a result. Which rather begs the question why the developers aren’t made to fund entire build costs given they create these situations or to build it themselves given it’s what they do?

As already stated in our press release it is not about ‘the money’, but the lack of non-obligatory engagement with the School that is the issue and the affects the building works, additional traffic, loss of habitat and hedgerow etc. have had on the School. We have welcomed new pupils and their families from the development and support any new community facilities. Our issue is not with the new population on this development, it is the company themselves in relation to not engaging with the School.

The fact that the Parish Council have applied for s106 money, been given it (or are in the process of doing so), have discussed and decided where they can spend their fund (subject to strict criteria) is great and the improvements will benefit some of the community, but the School does not have such a choice on how it is spent. They will not have a ‘pot of gold’ at the end of a Developer rainbow! All we’ve asked for is a bit of help and resources (that would be sent to land fill) from a large corporation (worth £347m in the first half of 2017) for a School already at full capacity, carrying the burden of massive expectation and budget cuts (as seen countrywide).