Homes proposal sparks calls for Cornhill First School to reopen

Proposals for affordable housing on the site of a former school have sparked calls for it to be saved

Simon Greener William Brewis, 4 who was the only pupil at Cornhill County First School in Northumberland
William Brewis, 4 who was the only pupil at Cornhill County First School in Northumberland

Proposals to develop affordable housing on a former school site in Northumberland are facing opposition, amid fresh calls for it to be saved.

Northumberland housing group Four Housing is considering redeveloping the former Cornhill First School as low cost homes.

But news of the proposal has caused some concern in the village with calls for the building to be left as it is to allow a possible future reopening of the school.

There are also claims the community does not need a big affordable housing scheme.

The Journal reported in July 2012 how the school had closed due to falling pupil numbers – there were just seven when the proposal was announced by governors – and the resulting lack of money to fund staff.

By the time of closure, four-year- old William Brewis was left as its only pupil.

At the time, villagers were angry at the closure given that there were children of school age in Cornhill being sent elsewhere to learn, that it had been praised by Ofsted and that the building was less than 20 years old.

Now, it has emerged that Four Housing has sent a survey round homes in the village asking for people’s views on the possibility of developing affordable homes on the school site.

Last night, chairman of Cornhill Parish Council William Carrington told how his authority had done a survey following the closure of the school asking villagers what should be done with the building.

He said a number of people had called for the school to be reopened, with affordable housing not featuring in responses.

“If you want to attract new people in, why did you close a perfectly serviceable school in the first place? It is odd, the school is less than 20 years old, it was in the best condition of any.

“It had a thriving community of young children then it dropped off a cliff.

“They were being bussed off to Ford or Norham. I do not think those schools were in anywhere near the condition or had the facilities. Perhaps retrospectively, it was an expensive mistake.

“There is definitely a very strong opinion that they would prefer it to have remained as a school or even reopened as a school. That sentiment still holds true today.”

Lynda Waite, co-owner of Cornhill Village Shop, added: “I am not opposed to affordable housing in the right place. It just seems such a silly site to put affordable housing on. They are going to knock down a perfectly good school for houses for families.”

Dougie Watkin, the county councillor who serves Cornhill, said the school had been mothballed but that no alternative suitable use had been found.

“It remains there if somebody comes up with a viable use.”

Coun Watkin said there are only six affordable homes for rent in the village, all of which are occupied.

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