Tuesday, 23 October 2007

North Road Primary Consultation

The public consultation process concerning the new North Road Primary School started last week with an open evening at the school for parents and local residents. Facilitated by a charity, the British Council for School Environments, the children and teachers had already taken part in a number of workshops to find out what they liked and disliked about the current school and what they wanted to see in the new school, which is to be built across the road.
Their efforts were on display at the open evening, which was attended by about 30 or 40 parents and residents, plus me and fellow Lib Dem Fred Lawton. The facilitators seemed happy with this turnout. In their experience these events attract anything from 2 people up to 100 or more. My guess is that more people will express their views when there's an actual plan to look at. That's certainly when some residents whose houses back on to the field on which the new school is to be built will get involved!
The range of ideas was really impressive, though whether having the school on wheels so that it can move around can be budgetted for I'm not sure. The kids disliked the toilets in the current school, and the lack of green space on the site. The teachers were looking forward to having a lighter, brighter, more co-ordinated environment.
The school, of which I am a proud new governor, strongly led by its excellent head, David Ackroyd (who did his training there thirty years ago), has performed wonders in its Edwardian buildings, but desperately needs facilities worthy of the 21st century.
It was refreshing to have a consultation process that started with a blank sheet of paper, and in which the building's users were consulted from the very beginning. Quite a contrast to the way local authorities usually consult.
At a Feethams Working Party meeting a couple of weeks ago, I suggested to the consultants who are leading the regeneration planning that they might like to hold a consultation event early in the programme of redevelopment, rather than when plans were quite well advanced. I was told that consultations at the "blank sheet of paper" stage were not useful, because "you get a lot of unreasonable requests which can never be achieved". Well, North Road Primary isn't going to be built on wheels with a swimming pool on the roof, but it is still worthwhile consulting at the "blank piece of paper" stage, otherwise you end up with a consultants' vision, like the High Row scheme, rather than one based on user and public preferences.

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