Newquay school leaders defiant, despite collapse of Tesco deal
LEADERS at Newquay Tretherras Academy have spoken of their regret that an £11 million deal to sell part of the school site to Tesco collapsed – but remain defiant.
Head teacher Sue Martin and chairman of governors Sarah Karkeek said there was currently "no Plan B" to raise a similar level of capital to fund crucial building and renovation work.
The school had been locked in confidential discussions with the supermarket giant for around two years before it was announced last Tuesday that the plans had been scrapped.
Mrs Martin told the Cornish Guardian: "That source of funding has gone, but our dream and vision still remain. We now have to look at every opportunity to find another source of funding.
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"It's disappointing. We really wanted to be able to show the plans and the architects' drawings to people so they could have seen what we were trying to do and really embrace the vision. Regrettably we never got the chance to show them."
She said the school would now investigate other funding streams, including the possibility of private sponsorship.
The cash would have funded new classrooms for English, maths and science, a new performing arts community theatre, a library, and refurbishment of the newer buildings.
The controversial Tesco proposals were scrapped primarily due to issues with site access, as the school was concerned about road safety for children and Tesco worried that its highways needs were at odds with the Duchy of Cornwall's vision for its new developments.
"They thought it would cost them a lot of money to fight (the duchy) and win," Mrs Martin said.
The pair disputed the suggestion that issues with site access could rule out similar proposals from other supermarkets or retailers, who might be put off for the same reasons.
Mrs Karkeek said: "We will have to look at each proposal on its own merits."
They stressed that the time and resources put into the negotiations had not been wasted, as legal work, surveys and the permission granted by the Department for Education to proceed with the land sale remained valid.
Much of the work had been paid for by Tesco.
Mrs Martin added: "On top of this, what's been excellent is the galvanising of support from students, staff and parents.
"We know we have strong support from our students and that they would like a new building. It's been lovely to hear teachers talking passionately about what they would like to do with new facilities.
"It's given us a drive to see if we can make this dream come true. The reality is that if we are going to offer our students a world-class facility we need a new building."
She said there was no immediate rush to secure a new deal and begin building work, although governor Phil Bunt suggested a time-scale of between 5 and 10 years was realistic.
"We can't stand still," he said. "If in five or 10 years this school is still in the same position it is in now then we will have gone backwards."
Mrs Martin said the worn-out Fifties-era buildings were currently costing £100,000 a year to maintain, although the academy recently secured a maintenance grant of £1.5 million from the Education Funding Authority.
She and Mrs Karkeek urged the community to rally behind the school's "brave and innovative" plans.
The proposed land sale had met with opposition from neighbours and traders on nearby Chester Road who believed a supermarket could put many out of business.
They formed campaign group RAID – Residents Against Inappropriate Development.
The school also found itself under fire over its lack of transparency and for failing to consult locals on its plans with Tesco.
But Mrs Martin said they had been bound by commercial confidentiality and had been looking forward to sharing their vision with the community, which could then have chosen to block it at the planning stage.
Mrs Karkeek added: "In some ways it's been a 'no win' situation for us. But although we've heard a lot from a local group, we've also had a lot of support. It was a brave, innovative plan and we're still very passionate about it."