The Government has abandoned its attempt to confiscate the proposed site of the grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks. Following talks held over the last few months between the Government and Kent County Council (“KCC”), the Government has now announced its agreement to the Wildernesse site being the location of the grammar annexe, following KCC’s announcement in January that Wildernesse was its preferred location. It was also announced that the new Trinity School will lease part of the vacant site from KCC.
Sevenoaks Grammar School campaigner, Sarah Shilling, said: “It is excellent news that the Government has now accepted that the grammar school annexe will be located on the Wildernesse site from September 2015. This is another big step forward for Sevenoaks parents hoping for a grammar school in the town, and we are now looking forward to receiving confirmation soon that the grammar annexe has been granted legal approval by Education Secretary, Michael Gove.”
Roger Gough, KCC Education Chief, said: “We had a situation back in March where there was talk about the site being taken away from us for the free school (Trinity). We opposed this because it was not a legally sound proposal, and it didn’t match what the people of Sevenoaks were telling us they wanted. We have every respect for the free school and its many backers, but we couldn’t allow the site to go at the cost of killing off the grammar school.”
KCC is holding a public exhibition of its grammar annexe building plans on Monday 16th September. This will provide an opportunity for interested parties to view the detailed plans for the Wildernesse site, prior to a planning application being formally submitted by KCC in October.
The exhibition will be held between 3.30pm and 9pm at The Donnington Manor Hotel, London Road, Dunton Green.
Roger Gough said: “This will provide an exciting opportunity to create a community learning hub at the former Wildernesse school site. The public exhibition of the plans, prior to making a planning application, is another important step in bringing forward a grammar annexe for the young people of Sevenoaks.”
Sarah Shilling said: “Parents obtained a sneak preview of the building plans in June at Invicta Grammar School’s Sevenoaks annexe presentation. The buildings looked stunning and we are looking forward to finding out further details at next week’s exhibition.”
The Abandoned Confiscation Plan
The Government’s plan to confiscate the proposed site of the Sevenoaks grammar annexe in favour of Trinity School was revealed in a leaked letter dated 4th March 2013 from Education Minister, Lord Nash, to KCC.
In the letter, Lord Nash threatened to compulsorily purchase the whole Wildernesse site, made no mention of a site share, and dismissed the grammar annexe plans by stating that: “It is immaterial if there is an intention on the part of the local authority (KCC) to use the site for the purposes of a different school.”
Following an outcry and a public protest from Sevenoaks parents, extensive lobbying by campaigners to overturn the Government’s decision, and legal advice indicating that the Government’s confiscation plan was unlawful, the plan has now been abandoned.