Backlash over learning village plans for Southbourne site

A trust has been forced to rethink controversial plans to build a ‘learning village’ in Southbourne after they were strongly criticised by residents.

The wave of opposition came after the Bourne Community Trust unveiled its plans to build the learning village and community hub on the same site as Bourne Community College during a consultation meeting.

Residents hit out at the idea to move the Southbourne infant and junior schools to the community college site and sell the land for homes, which the trust said would ‘make economic sense’.

Around 8,000 questionnaires were sent out to Southbourne and the wider community as pupils from Chichester and nearby areas currently attend the community college.

“There needs to be a greater deal of transparency from the trust about the plans,” said Southbourne parish councillor Philip MacDougall.

“The questionnaires about the learning village were sent out to a much wider area, to people who would be less aware of the ramifications of the scheme.

“I did a door-to-door survey and people in the area were aghast.”

Mr MacDougall added that a possible 600 houses could be built on the infant and junior school sites if the plans were given the go- ahead.

But for the meantime everything must go back to the drawing board after the majority of residents opposed the plans.

The results from a questionnaire showed 45 people were against the plans, as opposed to the 26 for it. The majority of people were also against the idea to move the junior and infant schools on to the same site as the community college.

John Southgate, chairman of the trust, said: “I was a bit disappointed because it means we need to think again – but I can understand it.”

Southbourne district and parish councillor Bob Hayes, who has a child at the community college, said: “I am absolutely committed to the college and will defend its record on educating children, but I will not defend this scheme.”

Bourne Community Trust’s current plan is to create a learning village at the Bourne Community College site.

It wants to merge Southbourne Junior School and Southbourne Infant School to form a new all-in-one primary school at the site. In addition, the county library in First Avenue and the Age Concern facilities in New Road would be moved to the college site.

The community hub would include facilities such as a pre-school, creche, youth wing, adult education facilities, a children and families centre and a business conference centre.

Headteacher of Bourne Community College, Margaret Eva, said: “I think the learning village is a brilliant concept. I would like to think not all is lost and we can take what is good from this.”