20th Sep, 2018

Secret council emails reveal 'public misled' over Woodlands Academy school site future

Les Reid 14th Nov, 2016 Updated: 15th Nov, 2016

SECRET council emails have uncovered private discussions with developers over the potential sale of the Woodlands Academy site, despite previous council denials.

Conservative councillors used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the emails which they say expose council denials issued in August this year, which ‘misled the public’.

Woodlands Academy secondary school for boys is merging with nearly Tile Hill Wood girls’ school under a controversial plan.

The future of the whole site including the playing fields has been the subject of fierce debate, with hopes it could be retained for educational use.

Governors had argued the merger – due to be completed next September – was due to a fall in pupil numbers at the single sex boys’ school, although the Finham 2 ‘free school’ was also granted permission to open in nearby Torrington Avenue, Tile Hill.

The private emails on August 10 show developers approached the council over acquiring the site.

They also reveal the council is planning to undertake a secretive review into the future use of the site which could lead to the sale of land, Tory councillors for Woodlands say.

In the exchange, senior council officer Paul Beesley pledges to alert the developer if there is a decision to sell the land – offering to maintain regular contact while the review is taking place. It is not known who the developer is as the information has been redacted (deleted).

Conservatives say the emails contradict Coventry City Council’s official position that there had been no talks with developers or planning for the site’s future.

Days after the private email exchange, the Tories say a briefing was sent to councillors claiming the land was in negotiations to be sold.

A statement from Woodlands Conservative councillors continues: “Dismissed as an error by the council, it’s understood that the officer who wrote the note has now left their position.

“There is currently an agreement allowing the community to use sports facilities at the school. However, the council are expected to take control of the site in late 2017 under Department for Education rules. They would then be free to begin disposing of the site.”

Coun Gary Ridley said: “In August, the council categorically denied all of this and it begs the question who knew what at the time. Was there a deliberate attempt by senior officers and councillors to mislead the public?”

Fellow Woodlands ward councillor, Cllr Peter Male said: “The current situation is unacceptable and we’d like to see education returning to the Woodlands Academy site… We believe that parents and residents have a right to know what’s going on and they should be consulted fully.”

Coun Julia Lepoidevin who also represents Woodlands ward, said; “Despite those denials we now discover, through Freedom of Information laws, that they really are considering selling the land. We need to know what the council are really planning to do with the site when it reverts back to the local authority next year.”

See the FoI emails here… woodlands-academy-1

Councillor Kevin Maton, cabinet member for education and skills, said: “I can confirm that the council does not have control of the Woodlands site and is not in any negotiations regarding its disposal. The Department for Education funded the academy and continues to be the holders of the lease.

“The e-mail response from our officers is a pretty standard response when developers enquire about a site.”

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