Free School ‘Fiasco’

This email was originally in response to an article in the Western Morning News, about the Route 39 free school proposed for North Devon, and was sent to me to use on Bude & Beyond, too. As it  highlights local concerns about the recent public consultation process that began last week in Bucks Cross, here we go……

Your report in today’s Western Morning News about the location of the Route 39 Academy at Steart Farm, Bucks Cross fails to mention the fiasco around the public consultation process that began with a heated meeting in Bucks Cross Village Hall on Wednesday 20th February.

The Route 39 organisers had distributed a letter to some local residents on Monday 18th February informing us that “Steart Farm has been identified as the site for the new school”. The fact that the distribution of these letters was haphazard and in no way reached the whole community affected by the proposed development was described by the organisers as unfortunate; I would call this careless.

On reading the letter, the meeting was advertised as taking place on Wednesday 20th March so it was surprising when the meeting actually took place on 20th February barely 24 hours after the distribution of the letter. This was apparently merely a typing error and not an attempt to limit the attendance of local people at the meeting. Even if the letter had contained the correct date details, 24 hour notice for an important consultation such as this was ridiculous and when considered alongside the other errors smacks of incompetence.

Ms Glossop describes the location as “beautiful, inspiring and uplifting and potentially one of the most stunning locations of any school in the whole of the country”. Well,  at least we are agreed on that. These are the very reasons why this site designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)* which should not be desecrated by buildings for 700 children and the accompanying car parks and development which will follow.

At the meeting which still went ahead yesterday, Ms Glossop and her associate appeared to suggest that Route 39 had been unable to find any other suitable sites, many of us were left wondering as to how hard they had looked once they had found such a place where you can “see right across Bideford Bay and on a good day as far as the Gower Peninsula in South Wales” (her words not mine).

The Route 39 Academy has as its motto “Engage, Respect, Aspire”. For myself and many others present at the meeting the way this announcement was handled has failed completely on the first two counts.

As for their aspirations they obviously do not include a really honest and open consultation process with the local community or perhaps they might have arranged to have taken notes of the meeting.

The overall feeling I was left with was that Route 39 had made their choice and that with the huge financial backing committed to this project by Central Government this was a done deal. Ms Glossop and her associate maintained the consultation process would in no way be just lip service but I fear that with the Government’s lack of respect for rural communities and Route 39 appearing to be in the vanguard of Mr Gove’s brave new world of Academies the future for our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is bleak.

Yours sincerely,

Philip Spittles


* Despite Bude & Beyond contacting the AONB re their views on the proposal, there has no far unfortunately been no response.

About The Author