Lancing IKEA development education funds ‘unlikely to cover new school cost’

An artists' impression of the IKEA at New Monks Farm
An artists' impression of the IKEA at New Monks Farm

Labour councillors have accused the county council of having an ‘unresponsive and complacent approach’ to securing funds for education from New Monks Farm developers.

Negotiations are underway to agree on the level of contributions to be paid by developers after plans for 600 homes and an IKEA at Lancing’s New Monks Farm were approved last month.

At the planning meeting in October, planning officer James Appleton said that the county council wanted a financial contribution towards the construction of a school ontop of the provision of two hectares of land for a school – which the applicants did not agree with.

The County Council has said it still expects to receive some section 106 contributions towards the new primary school project costs from developers.

But Labour councillors have accused the county council of an ‘unresponsive and complacent approach’ and said the contribution was ‘unlikely to be anywhere approaching the order of what was being sought’.

In response to a question from Labour councillors at a recent full council meeting, Councillor Jeremy Hunt, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources at West Sussex County Council, said: “The County Council still expects to receive some section 106 contributions towards the new primary school project costs and will consider how best to deliver the new school from available funding.

“At this stage the County Council cannot confirm the level of section 106 contributions that will be received from developers.

“The County Council always seeks to ensure developers fully mitigate the impact of their development to minimise the costs to the County Council.

“However, if the full value of a new school cannot be secured by section 106 contributions, the County Council would look to address any shortfall by the use of either Basic Need grant from central government or the possibility of a department for Education-funded Free School.”

After the meeting, Labour county councillor Michael Jones said it was not likely that the full value of a new school would be provided.

He said: “In the likelihood that the full value of a new school is not provided by the developers then taxpayers will have to fund it one way or another, seeing as the basic need grant comes from central government and the Department for Education will fund a new free school.

“The worst case scenario is that like has happened in other coastal towns recently, given the huge financial pressures on schools’ finances created by this Tory Government, no academy chain or free school provider comes forward and West Sussex County Council is forced to come up with the money itself because it still retains the statutory duty to provide education for local children, even if the growth in population is nothing to do with them.

“This all going on, while the developers and IKEA are free to enjoy the profits, and the residents of the surrounding areas suffer from longer traffic queues.”

Councillor Lee Cowen said: “There needs to be a primary school on the site if it goes ahead, no way around that, and I am particularly concerned that the £1.15 million for secondary and further education is not forthcoming.

“The Adur Tories’ attitude is it doesn’t matter because all secondary schools in Adur are academies.

“They’re missing the point. Existing schools are going to need expanding and someone has to pay for it.”

Mr Hunt was also questioned over the sale of a county council-owned strip of land at Withy Patch in Lancing, which is ‘key’ to the development going ahead.

The Labour councillors asked whether residents would be engaged and their views taken into account over the land swap with the developer – but Mr Hunt said there has already been full consultation with the public and an opportunity for all those residents affected to make representations.

Developers hope work on the New Monks Farm site could start in January 2018.

But a decision is still awaited on whether the Secretary of State will call-in the decision to approve the plans.

The MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, Tim Loughton, and the Sussex branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England had called for the government to scrutinise the decision.

No decision has yet been announced by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.

SEE MORE: What happens next with plans for IKEA in Lancing?