Residents of Farnham Lane have accused United Learning of starting a “war” over the proposed move of The Royal School’s junior pupils from Hindhead to Haslemere.
United Learning (UL), owners of The Royal School, last week blamed “scaremongering” by local objectors for potentially blocking its plans to remove a cap on day pupils at the senior school site in Farnham Lane.
But hitting back in a letter to the Herald, printed on Page 18 of this week's paper, Chris Harrison, chairman of the Farnham Bunch Lane Triangle Association and a resident on Stoatley Rise, expressed disappointment at the charity’s comments, saying: “Far from consulting with residents, the school owners seem to want a war.”
Mr Harrison added residents have been targeted by UL for expressing the exact same traffic concerns cited by Surrey County Council’s highways department in its own objection.
He said: “Whatever happened to the owners’ stated intention to consult with the residents of the lane, as sent out in their original application to change the s106 agreement which governs the schools pupil numbers and consequent travel movements?
"The simple truth is that, after three submissions, the consultants employed by the owners have failed to meet the planning requirements of Surrey Highways.
"Surrey Highways have refused their application, citing a failure to answer earlier requests for information, concerns about highway safety, failure to confirm the viability of proposed mini-bus pick-up locations or to satisfactorily explain how vehicle movements would be managed."
Councillor Terry Weldon, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Haslemere East in May’s elections, also took issue with UL’s accusations this week, saying UL’s dismissal of local road safety concerns as scaremongering “misses the point” as Surrey County Council’s highways department has also assessed its plans as “unworkable”.
He said: "United Learning’s labelling of residents’ concerns as unjustified scaremongering misses the point.
"It is not just the residents who are concerned. Surrey Highways have assessed the plan as unworkable. Do United Learning really believe the professionals at Surrey Highways are pandering to residents’ fears?"
UL has also faced criticism for discrediting retired war correspondent, and Farnham Lane resident, John Laurence as not an “independent journalist” but a “campaigner against our proposals". This, after Mr Laurence refuted UL's claim that residents had previously sold off their gardens for 'infill' development, adding traffic to the roads.
Cllr Weldon continued: "The dismissal of the concerns raised by John Laurence also misses the point. They say 'he should perhaps discuss this with his neighbours'. I’m pretty sure that if he did, he would find they agree with him.
"As Liberal Democrat candidate for Haslemere East in May’s elections, I’ve been doing exactly that – talking to residents, with no personal stake in the issue, just to hear the residents’ views. Every single household I’ve seen has expressed serious concerns about United Learning’s plan.
"I sense a general recognition by residents that the school faces a problem and would like to see a viable solution, but agree with Surrey Highways that the current plan does not do this. United Learning need to come up with something better."
A UL spokesman this week clarified its “scaremongering” comment, saying this was targeted at “those who have conducted a campaign of misinformation and of wholly unreasonable behaviour”.
The spokesman added the move of the junior school, from Hindhead to Farnham Lane, “will” happen within the school’s current Section 106 limit and “will” increase traffic in September, regardless of Waverley’s ruling on its planning application.
The UL spokesman reiterated its planning application “will give us the ability to manage the traffic in the lane by introducing for the first time a legally-binding limit on school traffic in the lane”.
UL’s application seeks to remove a cap on 200 day pupils at The Royal School’s senior site in Haslemere, but replace this with a cap on 190 vehicle movements during the morning rush hour and 123 during the evening peak.
The UL spokesman added: “It is straightforwardly scaremongering to say the planning application increases traffic in the lane . It does nothing of the sort – it proposes a legally-binding limit on traffic in the road.”