Blow for Tunbridge Wells parents as KCC fails to find a school contractor

The Mead School in Tunbridge Wells gave a professional level performance in the  ISA drama contests

FEARS that Hawkenbury’s new primary school in Tunbridge Wells could be delayed until 2020 appear to have been realised as the planned opening date has been postponed for the second time.

In a blow for parents who were hoping to enrol their children at the Hawkenbury school in the new year, Kent County Council [KCC] have now pushed back the opening date for the majority of pupils to February 2020. It will eventually take 210 pupils.

The authority has blamed the hold-up on a ‘combination of site specific factors’ and delays in procuring a main contractor to manage the design and construction of the building project.

As an interim measure, an additional ten places will be provided for reception pupils at
St Peter’s Church of England Primary School on Bayhall Road in September 2019.

‘The additional pupils will be accommodated for the temporary period in safe and suitable accommodation within the existing school ground,’ the spokesman said.

Kent County Council ‘regrets’ the likely postponement but insists contractors will seek a December 2019 completion ‘if at all possible’, he added.

Originally the new school was supposed to open in January 2019 and its provision was a key condition for the council granting planning permission for the 235 homes on the Hawkenbury Farm development.

Developer Berkeley Homes agreed to pay £1.5million towards the school’s development in a Section 106 payment. The site of the school itself is due to be transferred to KCC’s control ‘in the next few weeks’.

It would have seen the relocation of all pupils currently attending St Peter’s, which has limited capacity and is spread over three separate sites, to the new facilities.

But already the original proposal has been scaled back. As the Times reported in April, each year will now accommodate just 30 pupils, instead of the original 40, giving a total capacity of 210.

At the time, KCC argued there was not enough demand to justify a larger 280-place school.

Dean Kenward, Chairman of Hawkenbury Village Association, dismissed even the latest opening date as ‘optimistic’, pointing out that KCC has yet to make a planning application for the site.

He also raised fears that any substantial delay could result in the old school closing before the new one is ready.

‘Some people have children who will be school age in 2019 and moved here because of the school. Now they don’t know which school they will go to,’ he said.

‘KCC is hoping to have the school completed by February 2020, but we believe this is optimistic and the school is likely to open after the Easter break in 2020.

‘The unfortunate impact of this is that St Peter’s will have to accommodate a further ten reception pupils in their current location.

‘The already overcrowded school building will have to cope with even more pupils and it is likely that some form of temporary classroom may be needed.’

PICTURE: CLASS APART: St Peter’s will take ten more pupils

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