Parents protest at Rothbury First School costly kitchen plan

Hundreds of parents of pupils at Rothbury First School have signed a petition for new school dining hall

Karen Crane, (left) Jaime Gutherson Brown and Cllr Steven Bridgett at Rothbury First School

Hundreds of people have signed a petition calling for a dining hall and kitchen at a Northumberland school to be replaced rather than refurbished.

Northumberland County Council is proposing to overhaul the facilities at Rothbury First School.

However, parents are calling for the facilities to be rebuilt instead, while also criticising the council for an apparent lack of consultation, and have amassed a petition which 494 people have signed.

Their campaign was, however, dealt a blow last night when the school’s governors said they were backing the refurbishment. The county council agreed to address the condition of the hall and kitchen, in a self-contained building, after concerns were raised by environmental health officers that the facilities were an inadequately insulated and inadequately ventilated kitchen, which was said to have “caused issues with the fabric of the building which give rise to health and safety concerns”.

A feasibility study was carried out which identified that the cost of a rebuild would be £725,000, which is £317,000 more than a refurbishment.

It revealed the building to be structurally sound and said the refurbishment would address all health and safety issues.

Bosses decided to proceed with the £408,000 refurbishment.

In March, however, leaders at the school “began to express concern” that the project “did not meet their wider aspirations for an improved building.”

A letter was sent to parents by the school. Karen Crane and Jaime Gutherson Brown then created the petition calling for a rebuild.

Last night, Mrs Gutherson Brown, 35, of Whitton View, explained that the duo had been angered by a lack of consultation by the council before announcing its plans, a criticism supported by Rothbury county councillor Steven Bridgett as well as the school’s governors.

She told how the kitchen and dining hall had been built in 1940 as a temporary structure, which was only meant to last 10 years.

Mrs Gutherson Brown, a full-time mum to Connor, eight, and Finlay, five, said a new build, with toilet facilities, attached to the main school building, would be preferable. The signatures were discussed at a meeting of the authority’s petitions committee, following which council officers met the school’s governors and headteacher.

An authority spokesperson said: “Officers from the county council met with the school on Wednesday last week to move the project forward.”

Last night, chairman of governors Robert Famelton said: “We would prefer a rebuild, but we are mindful of the fact there is a limited amount of money available. At present we are going down the refurbishment route. The next stage is to open that up to parents to have their input, and the wider community.”

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