School Land Issues, more personal power to the Secretary of State

Carlton Colville Primary School: Belongs to Mr Gove
At yesterday's public meeting in Carlton Colville there were three tiers of government present. The meeting was organised by the Town Council who had plans for the old primary schools site, there were District Councillors present (who are the local planning authority) and no less than three Suffolk County Councillors including local constituency councillor and Cabinet member Kathy Gosling. Suffolk County Council actually "own" the site.

County Cllr
Kathy Gosling
Well when I say they own it I am being a little unfair because from 1 February this year some technical sounding but significant changes to legislation on school land effectively mean they have no control whatsoever over the building. They may own the freehold but they can't dispose of it without the personal consent of Mr Gove the Education Secretary.

For those wanting chapter and verse you can find it in this document on the DfE website called Changes to the requirements for disposing of school land under Schedule 1 to the Academies Act 2010 (formerly Schedule 35A disposals). If you really want you can read Schedule 1 of the Academies Act but to cut a lot of legalise short it's up to the Secretary of State what happens to the land. 

Michael Gove MP
behind a "Big Society" banner
He keeps these powers for 8 years on all land formerly used for a school or academy. Indeed we heard at a public meeting that a nearby primary school - Elm Tree - was being left empty "just in case" someone wanted to open a free school there.

This legislation effectively means that the Secretary of State can ignore all three tiers of local government. Maybe this is why Seckford didn't bother to attend they know the only relationship that matters is with the DfE in London.

It in some ways then the  meeting was a waste of time as the two organisations who matter - The Seckford Foundation and the DfE stayed safely in Woodbridge and Westminster away from the public anger. The local Conservatives present never mentioned that they have given away the local communities right to make decisions over their own public land to someone in Westminster who probably couldn't find Carlton Colville on a map....
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