AN EDUCATION chief has urged community leaders to back plans to open a new state-of-the-art primary school in their village.
However, plans to close Tarporley Primary and uproot pupils to the vacant Brook Farm special school site in the village can only be achieved through the sale of 'spare' land at both sites.
Education chiefs want to fund the move by selling green space at both sites in order to re-coup £2.5m from a developer eager to attract affordable homes to the village.
Education bosses at Cheshire County Council announced plans to close Tarporley Primary and to uproot its pupils in 2002.
They say the relocation to Brook Farm, which closed in 2001, would solve Tarporley Primary's annual over-subscription problem. A move would also give the primary state-of-the-art equipment, a bigger school hall and extra classrooms.
An update on plans to close Tarporley Primary was given by John Bullock, of the council's school development department, at the March meeting of Tarporley Parish Council on Monday.
He told councillors that a plan to re-locate the school would be funded by the sale of playing field land at both sites to developers who would, in turn, acquire new houses for the village, generating capital income for the local education authority.
However, councillors are fearful as to how many new homes could be created in their village and asked whether Tarporley would be the victim of an unwanted luxury housing boom.
Parish councillors also turned on Mr Bullock after he produced a specimen public notice which told of the county council's intention to close Tarporley Primary School.
Cllr Ernest Boynes felt the notice and a phrase stressing the council's intention to close Tarporley Primary would leave many to believe that plans to close the Park Road school were a 'fait accompli'.
County Cllr Andrew Needham (Con, Tarp), who was at the meeting for another matter, also hit out at the presentation of the notice, saying bringing the item to the meeting was 'premature'.
Mr Bullock was frank with councillors saying any closure of Tarporley Primary would not be on the cards if the Brook Farm site was not available, but said it was an opportunity to be seized.
'The availability of Brook Farm is a unique opportunity. It will not re-occur,' he said. 'Now is a time when you can do this.
'We, as a county council, can't hang on to that land forever. We are under pressure to sell. There is an educational case for doing it. There is now an opportunity to do something worthwhile for the long-term perspective.'
Mr Bullock said any profit from the £2.5m scheme would be ploughed into education and assured councillors that the bulk of new properties created would be affordable homes.
He said a design brief would be formulated to prevent four- or five-bedroomed luxury homes being built in the village.
Mr Bullock also told councillors that a draft planning application for the planned development would be produced soon.
He told Cllr Boynes and fellow councillors that the county council was legally bound to stress its intention to close Tarporley Primary on public notices but said any decision was not set in stone.
But Cllr Boynes told Mr Bullock that his authority was not paying for the planned closure.
'You are not paying for it,' he said. 'You want us to change our village.'
Mr Bullock said the impact on the village was not be as significant as imagined and said the county council is working to retain certain historical features of Tarporley Primary.
He said villagers would be able to take part in a visual presentation soon and that a planning application could be compiled before July.
However, he admitted that initial fore-casts to get Tarporley Primary pupils into the new site for September 2005 were now off-target and said it was looking more like September 2006.
Cllr Tim Hill, a Vale Royal Borough Cllr, reminded Mr Bullock that any plans to close Tarporley Primary had to be approved by Vale Royal Borough Council which is the development authority.
He told Mr Bullock that Vale Royal's planning chief, Richard Ellison, had not seen any proposed plans.
Cllr Hill added: 'We can't have a situation where Cheshire County Council's education department presents this as a 'fait accompli'.
'Vale Royal is the development authority and if they say 'no' then you won't get your new school. At the end of the day that's the way it's going to be. It's essential you carry the planning authority with you.'
Mr Bullock was also reminded of a recent consultation which revealed how only 20% of Tarporley Primary parents were in support of the move to Brook Farm and how 70% had not responded. Should Tarporley Primary close? Send your letters to Newsdesk, Chester Chronicle, Commonhall Street, Chester, CH1 2AA. You can also e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org