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Will protected green space be given up for new schools?

DfE plans to build free schools on green belt

CPRE warns Education Funding Agency about acquiring land outside usual planning processes

Posted by Stephanie Broad | December 21, 2015 | People, policy, politics, money

A report from Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has revealed that the DfE’s Education Funding Agency is identifying and acquiring Green Belt sites in London not identified in local plans. The government, according to the report, is applying pressure to planning authorities to approve this development.

The CPRE document highlights 23 cases where schools have been earmarked for protected green spaces. It states: “We need new schools and we need housing. In the right places. Not on the Green Belt and not on Metropolitan Open Land (MOL).

“Green Belts are afforded the highest level of protection from new development under the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework. A similar level of protection extends to MOL. Politicians at all levels profess strong support for these provisions. But this report highlights a considerable number of cases in Greater London where schools have been built or are being planned on Green Belt and MOL contrary to government policy and clear government guidelines.”

This comes at a time where the government is under pressure to create school places for a growing population: the National Pupil Projections - Future Trends in Pupil Numbers show that the secondary school population will increase 20% by 2024. Building new schools will make room for higher pupil numbers but, as school leaders’ union NAHT states, “Some local agency should have the strategic role in the planning of places, able to commission new schools and places in both the academy and maintained sectors.”

What do you think about this news? Is providing more school places more important than protecting green spaces? Send your comments to the editor.

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