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Cobham Free School finds a new greenbelt home
A new permanent site for Cobham Free School has been announced, months after the developers pulled out of original proposals.
The school, currently based at the former police station in Portsmouth Road, unveiled plans in November to build the schools secondary provision alongside 500 homes at Chippings Farm, off Elveden Road.
Earlier this month developer Cala Homes, which would have built the homes, pulled out of the deal, leaving the free school searching for an alternative site.
The school has now secured a permanent home for the senior department and expanded junior school and terms have been agreed to acquire six acres of land adjacent to Anvil Lane.
Howard Morris, chairman of governors at Cobham Free School, said: "This is a superb site, close to the town centre and yet located where it will not have a direct impact on local residents. There will also be exciting opportunities to provide enhanced sports facilities for the wider Cobham community.
"I am confident these proposals offer the best chance for Cobham children to be educated in Cobham, eliminating the need for them to have to travel considerable distances to their secondary schools, as they do now."
He said: "We now have a unique opportunity to secure a new secondary school for Cobham children. There remain many details to iron out, which will be properly subject to the independent planning process.
"However, having looked carefully at all the other potential sites, I hope everyone recognises that this option is the only realistic chance of building a new school for the village in the foreseeable future."
Concerns about the impact of traffic, building on the greenbelt and whether the school would provide places for Cobham children remained among some neighbours and community organisations.
David Tipping, vice-chairman of Cobham Conservation and Heritage Trust, said: "I feel quite sad because everything seems to be done cloak and dagger and there is no consultation.
"From the greenbelt point of view, I am quite sure the majority of people of Cobham will say ‘it is greenbelt land’. We feel it would be the thin end of the wedge because what comes next?
"It all comes back to greenbelt site, no consultation and something being done behind closed doors."
The Education Funding Agency will submit the planning application and deal with the development of the school and it is expected a planning application will be submitted within six months, but it is not known when the school will be able to open.
Mr Morris said: "In terms of opening, [it is] too early at this stage to call. Needless to say, there is an opportunity for a phased handover that would meet our requirements for September 2015 intake."
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