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Paignton headteacher threatens to close school over development plans

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: June 29, 2012

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A headteacher has threatened to close his primary school if warnings about the dangers posed by the development of a contaminated former gas works are not heeded.

Russ Green wrote to all parents at Preston Primary School in Paignton to tell them that he would take the drastic action if he had concerns over the health of children and staff in relation to proposed work to build 184 flats at the neighbouring Hollicombe former gas works site.

Developer Linden Homes has said it was “disappointed that incorrect information has been distributed to parents causing unnecessary concern” about the plans. It said work would not begin unless it was satisfied that its methods were the “best possible” to ensure safety.

But the school fears that toxic particles could be inhaled by students, and say it could lead to female students growing up to have deformed babies in the “worst case scenario”.

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In his letter, Mr Brown told parents: “If I am not assured that the works are safe, I would have no alternative but to consider closing the school.”

Parent governor Leon Butler, who has two children at the school, said the debate had been raging for several years, and that there was a “very high level of concern” at the school.

He said: “If the development went ahead without conditions that the school was satisfied with, then the school would have to consider closing. In any situation where the board of governors felt that the children’s safety was at risk, it couldn’t open, the same as if there was a blizzard or a hurricane.

“In this case, our young female students could be at particular risk of breathing in the dust which could contain toxins which are still in the soil from the activities there. In the worst case scenario, it could lead to them having deformed babies in later life. What we have been discussing with the developers is how we stop these toxins getting into the air and into our children’s lungs.”

Mr Butler said governors had previously felt ignored, but now felt that the developer and the council were both listening, and a resolution was in sight. “Everyone now seems to be working together to do something about it,” he said.

The Lindem Homes spokesman said: “It is an unavoidable fact that the site is currently contaminated and one of the benefits provided by the proposed development will be to remove this environmental liability from the community permanently.

“Our proposals have been considered in great detail by internationally renowned independent experts as well as the Environmental Agency and Torbay Borough Council’s Environmental Health Department. In every case they have concluded that our proposals are not only safe, but the best approach to carrying out the necessary work.”

The company said it would be happy to meet with the school to explain its proposals more fully.

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  • reiwruwiou  |  July 02 2012, 1:26PM

    Were there any concerns when the gasworks on the other side of the road were converted into a park? Presumably this land would be just as toxic, and the dust would only have to travel a further 20 feet. Do any of the people objecting use this park? Also, if Mr Green chooses to close the school will his pay be witheld for the period? How much toxicity makes it into the air / soil by leaving the place as it is? How many kids have already found their way on to the site as it stands?

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  • andy063  |  July 01 2012, 9:18PM

    Karen362 I don't know which odd little world you live in but apart from general objections which arise with most development applications, do you really think that the middle classes object on the grounds of other middle class people moving in or starting new businesses up? And, I have to admit I've only just stopped p*****g myself with laughter at your assertion that middle class housewifes fight over jobs in Morrisons; I would have thought that most middle class housewives drive a Merc to Waitrose. Perhaps you consider anyone with a job to be middle class, something which speaks volumes.

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  • godhelpus  |  June 29 2012, 1:54PM

    to Karen362 at the beginning of your rant about class you state that you do not know the facts about this situation that the headmaster of Preston primary school finds himself in the facts are as follows the land at Hollacombe is contaminated with highly toxic chemicals to release these into the atmosphere would be dangerous to the health of the pupils and the local community it has nothing to do with (middle class parents) and your presumed NIMBY attitude of concerned people as you state at the beginning you do not know the facts therefore go back to you sad little life and keep quiet until you have more command of what is going on

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  • whymustienteranickname  |  June 29 2012, 11:38AM

    Just to point out that Preston primary school is actually in Livermead, Torquay, and not in Paignton as the article states.

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  • nicold  |  June 29 2012, 11:29AM

    After all this publicity, would anyone be interested in buying property in this development?...I sure wouldn't!

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  • Karen362  |  June 29 2012, 11:04AM

    Sorry I meant 'palatable', of course, headmaster!

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  • Karen362  |  June 29 2012, 11:01AM

    I'll have to do some more detailed research into Hollicombe before I say anything. It could well be that the headmaster is acting on legitimate concerns here. I don't think I'd particularly choose to live on a former gas works. On the other hand, he may be under pressure from his school governors and local middle-classed parents who are opposed to any further real estate development in Preston. There could be several reasons for this - the fact that new homes invariably mean more relocations from elsewhere could pose a potential threat to existing vested interests in Preston. In other words, more external job applicants and small business start-ups in the area, all of which equate to an increase in competition amongst small traders and enough middle-classed housewives to staff the new Morrisons twice over when it's built. If it were just social housing, they would probably use the excuse that they don't want any riff-raff in Preston. However, when it comes to more unsustainable middle-classed housing, the environmental impact can sometimes be a more pallatable line of defence, after all.

  • howson  |  June 29 2012, 9:11AM

    close the school. head teachers should not make emotional threats

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