Crisis if council does not maintain stock

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In light of last week’s article about Colden school and the Hebden Bridge Times interest in public opinion I feel it is important to provide further information.

There are two Primary schools who have a constant battle with Health and Safety of their temporary classrooms. Old Town School have been trying for the past two years to improve the conditions in which their children learn.

For Old Town to build a permanent classroom they had to build a link corridor. This was achieved solely by FOOTS (PTFA) and school funds.

The classroom project would cost half of that needed by Colden. The school have planning permission, architect’s plans, and tenders from building contractors and could start tomorrow, ending a 40 year temporary classroom scenario, if they had the funds.

The school asked the Local Authority for funds with no luck. Then they applied to Awarding bodies and Charities for grants, always receiving the same response that – it is the responsibility of the Local Authority to maintain their buildings – a comment hard to argue with.

The school have requested the opportunity to get a loan that would be equal to the lease cost of the portacabin – a no brainer in terms of “Invest and Save” but this has been completely ruled out by Calderdale.

Undeterred the school have gone to the community and have had money ring fenced by Charities and donations from individuals, not least Sir Mervyn King (former Old Town Pupil) who hopes his donation will be “encouragement to others to lend their support.”

Councillor Battye and Young have expressed their support and MP Craig Whittaker believes “this situation needs to be addressed directly by Calderdale and that the current situation is unacceptable”. Unfortunately this has not changed hearts and minds at Calderdale.

We can’t even build the classroom ourselves as Calderdale own the building.

The Schools Health & Safety report for the portacabin became so concerning that Calderdale insisted the private company who own the cabin make emergency repairs.

The children were taught in the hall for a week and the work was carried out in early January. This has deferred fears but is not a sustainable solution.

The small financial needs to set the school for years to come is dwarfed by Calderdale’s School Capital fund of 19 million (October 14, 2013). Basic need for children who have no school to go to is a big problem in Halifax but a more expensive problem will loom in the upper valley if they don’t maintain their school stock.

There is a ‘way’ forward for Old Town and Colden, please contact Calderdale and show your support in order for them to find the ‘will’.

Coun Kate Drury

Wadsworth Parish Council