School’s playing field dream is under threat

BUNGLING bureaucrats are being blamed for jeopardising a Great Yarmouth school’s dream of securing a playing field during its centenary year.

Senior borough council officers gave an assurance in 2010 that there would be no problem in Cobholm school acquiring a plot of land owned by the authority.

However, just as staff and pupils were getting excited about using their field in the run-up to the Olympics, and in their centenary year, red-faced officers have discovered a snag - a company already has first option to buy the plot.

Local borough councillor John Holmes, who has worked to help the school fight its way through a bureaucratic web of borough and county council communications, said: “I am bitterly disappointed by this latest delay.

“It was more than two years ago that I went to see a senior officer who said the council owned the land and they would be quite happy to give it to the school.

“Later, they decided to sell it to Norfolk County Council, for the benefit of the school, for a small fee, but that was all agreed at a meeting I attended with officers from both authorities.

“Why chief officers at the borough council did not know these ownership problems surrounding the land at an earlier stage baffles me. What is going on?”

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Retired GP Pat Stuart, who helped to steer the project during her time as chairman of the governors, said: “There have been countless emails, phone calls and meetings to get to this stage. My reaction now is, ‘help, Cobholm school wants to know what to do next’.”

Earlier this term headteacher Julie Risby thought the hold-ups at both borough and county councils were over when someone came to chop down trees on the plot neighbouring the Mill Road School - other workmen even told her they would imminently be bringing fencing to put up around it.

She said initial discussions with the borough council over the land had begun towards the end of 2008.

Cobholm became a primary school following a �2.4m building project completed in May 2010 and it was widely thought in the community that having a playing field would be the deserved icing on the cake.

She said: “We need more space as our playground is not very large. There cannot be many primary schools in the county with no playing field.

“We want to take a group of children to see the Olympic torch and it would have been good to hold our own mini-Olympics on the land.”

She said the land would also be ideal as a wildlife area, allowing the introduction of new activities such as a gardening club.

Until the latest setback the school had been planning to formally open the field next term by burying a centenary time capsule prepared by the pupils.

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said: “We are doing all we can to secure a playing field for pupils at Cobholm as quickly as possible. However, we are currently awaiting resolution of an issue over possible third party rights to the land. This sits with the borough council.”

A borough council spokesman said the matter was in the hands of solicitors who were working speedily to try to resolve it.