School site for homes row

COUNCIL officials have been warned they could face a second campaign by villagers amid fears the closure of the county's smallest school could pave the way for housing.

COUNCIL officials have been warned they could face a second campaign by villagers amid fears the closure of the county's smallest school could pave the way for housing.

Tracie Crascall , a chief campaigner in trying to save Gazeley Primary School, Newmarket, said there would be uproar in the village if the site was sold for housing.

Speculation is mounting about what will happen to the land after governors recommended closing the school to Suffolk County Council.

Residents have spoken of their concern that the "centre of their village" could be converted into housing.

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Ms Crascall said: "I don't think the governors' decision will come as much as a shock to the parents but it is a huge blow for the community.

"But the shock will now turn to what will happen next. The main question the community will be asking is what will happen to the school.

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"A lot of the village don't want more housing and I think if that is what is decided, there will be a riot. "There is such a strength of feeling about this that I think it could start another campaign if the land was sold for housing."

Campaigners have fought the possible school closure since Ofsted inspectors visited last April and revealed there were serious weaknesses at Gazeley.

Although still to be discussed by Suffolk County Council's executive committee, the governors' recommendation appears to be the final nail in the school's coffin despite a bitter battle from parents.

Ms Crascall, became a governor in September, after three generations of her family attended the school.

Explaining why the closure threat had provoked such widespread concern, she said: "Everyone knew each other, it was part of a tight-knit community. The school and teachers became part of a big family. Friendships were born there and they lasted a lifetime."

Suffolk County Council admitted they were unsure what would happen to the land amid speculation it could be turned into housing.

Area education officer Tom Scherb said: We will now carry out investigations into the ownership of the building and the land.

"Gazeley is a Church of England voluntary controlled school and we are uncertain what bits are the Church of England and what bits are the local education authority."

County councillor Jane Andrews Smith, whose Icknield ward covers the school, said she hoped the school would now be turned into a community centre.

She added: "I am really concerned that this move will set a precedent for other small schools whether they have serious weaknesses or not.

"I am very disappointed, there were only 16 children but more were coming on line later this year and you don't expect many pupils in a small village school. I will now be keeping a close eye on my other primary schools."

The governor's recommendation will now go to the council's executive committee who are expected to discuss the future of the school next month.

If they agree with the governors, the school is expected to close in August with pupils joining neighbouring schools in Barrow and Moulton in time for the new term starting in September.

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