Seckford Foundation's last chance to do the right thing in Beccles

With Waveney MP Peter Aldous joining the long list of people opposing the Beccles Free School proposers the Seckford Foundation are in a dilemma. It could well be the case that the DfE have made it known that they intend to approve the bid come what may so Seckford just need to keep their heads down for a few more weeks and then see the school approved. On the other hand the DfE might decide at the last minute that this is politically too dangerous and refuse to sign the funding agreement leaving Seckford high and dry.

There is also a more local risk to Seckford in trying to press ahead. On Sunday in Carlton Colville there is a public meeting organised by the Town Council about the future of the primary school site there. It is well known that feelings in Carlton are running high about the failure of Seckford to consult them about the use of the primary school and legitimate concerns about traffic and noise from local residents. Seckford could well have a second Suffolk Town engaged in a battle with them following the meeting on Sunday.

That is not the only risk for Seckford as a judicial review into the consultation and the impact of the proposed free school on Sir John Leman and other schools now looks almost certain if the DfE approve the bid. Such a review would cause delay and given the concerns over the consultation and the likely impact at Sir John Leman there must be a strong likelihood that it might prevail. For the first time this could also see Seckford forced to use their own funds to pay legal costs.

For the Seckford Foundation time is really running out for them to be able to exit without lasting damage. If they announced their withdrawal today - citing the MPs report as the reason - then they would avoid another unnecessary conflict in Carlton Colville and look to be honouring the promise they made not to impose the school against the wishes of the Town.

If they fail to do this they run the risk of contaminating their own brand with people in Suffolk thinking twice about engagement with an organisation that does not appear to pay attention to the views of local communities outside of their Woodbridge home and makes promises it fails to keep. Seckford appear already to be falling into the trap of trying to unfairly label their opponents as "against choice and opportunity". They run the risk that even people who agree with them will be uneasy about criticism of local people from another part of the County.

But now is the last chance Seckford have to make the decision for themselves. Do they really want to bet the farm on the uncertainties of the DfE, local public opinion in Waveney and the Courts?
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