Controversial plans to move Surrey primary school overwhelmingly rejected by residents - but the future remains up in the air

Controversial plans to move a popular primary almost a mile across town have been overwhelmingly rejected by residents but the future of Reigate Priory Junior School remains up in the air.
Parents are concerned about the planned move for Reigate Priory Junior School. Credit Grahame LarterParents are concerned about the planned move for Reigate Priory Junior School. Credit Grahame Larter
Parents are concerned about the planned move for Reigate Priory Junior School. Credit Grahame Larter

Surrey County Council’s cabinet is due to meet on Tuesday, February 27, to discuss the future of primary school provision in Reigate.

The county had originally intended to move children from Reigate Priory into a new build next to the council’s Woodhatch Place headquarters.

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However, according to minutes from the February 2023 planning meeting Surrey County Councillors were minded to refuse the move due to the “harm” it would have on the “character and appearance of the area”, the “harmful increase in traffic and congestion” as well as “concerns associated with the movement of children along narrow footways and across roads”.

Reigate Priory School plans for Woodhatch Place site. From planning documents, credit: Noviun ArchitectsReigate Priory School plans for Woodhatch Place site. From planning documents, credit: Noviun Architects
Reigate Priory School plans for Woodhatch Place site. From planning documents, credit: Noviun Architects

Those plans ran further aground on the back of strong objections from Reigate Borough Council with its chief planning officer, Andrew Benson, saying there had been meetings and conversations with the Department for Education about the potential to redevelop the historic town centre site and keep the school at its current location.

He said they had identified ways of extending the building, particularly the 1950s block that had “no heritage worth whatsoever”.

In an effort to resolve matters, Surrey County Council consulted residents on the future of school provision and offered two main options.

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The first was to again look to relocate Reigate Priory Junior School to Woodhatch Place; the second to create an “education working group” to explore reorganising schools in the area. This could involve children moving schools and classes.

In all there were 975 responses with more than two-thirds, 665 people, rejecting the relocation and calling for option two.

The council is now being recommended to listen to the result – but also to press on with a planning application and build a three storey five-form junior school in Woodhatch Place next to its own new offices.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service understands this is to prevent any undue delays should the working group decide Reigate Priory move across town.

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The most common responses to relocating the school were the negative impact on traffic, 391 comments, and the safety of travelling to school, 329 comments.

The desire to see “solutions on the current site” was the predominant theme for the working group to explore with 298 comments.

Clare Curran, cabinet member for children, families and lifelong learning, said: “Surrey County Council has a statutory duty to ensure children have access to education that is safe, accessible, and fit for the future and the Department for Education has confirmed that the current Reigate Priory Junior School building is not in line with modern learning requirements and any re-provision or redevelopment of a like-for-like school on the same site is restricted.

“Therefore, we recently consulted the community on two options to consider the future of primary school provision in Reigate.

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“Option one is to relocate Reigate Priory Junior School to a new site at Woodhatch Place and Option two is to set up an education working group to explore reorganisation options for schools in the primary planning area of Reigate.

“Cabinet will take into account feedback from the consultation, along with other considerations and decide on the best option to take forward on February 27.

“Consultation analysis has now been published, which notes the majority of respondents to the consultation selected option two.

“To ensure we are listening to residents and so that we find the most suitable and viable solution for Reigate Priory children as quickly as possible, our officers are recommending Cabinet agree Option two and also continue to pursue the live planning application for Option one, although this is subject to the Cabinet decision on February 27.

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“A further decision will be required by Cabinet later in 2024 to determine how to proceed, taking into consideration the recommendations of the Option two working group and the outcome of the planning application.”