Villagers act to evict flagship Sikh free school

The parish council objects because it believes the village’s narrow roads will not cope with the traffic

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The Independent Online

A Buckinghamshire village is taking legal action to evict one of the Government’s flagship free schools, which aims to caters for up to 850 Sikh pupils .

Villagers in Stoke Poges are seeking a High Court hearing  to overturn a decision by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to allow the Khalsa Secondary Academy to establish a permanent base locally.

The parish council objects because it believes the village’s narrow roads will not cope with the traffic once the school has grown to its full potential.

In addition to its legal action, South Bucks District Council is appealing against Mr Pickles’s decision to allow the school to remain in the village. Roger Reed, the council’s cabinet member for sustainable development, said: “We do not undertake legal action lightly. Eric Pickles has made a bad decision and we need to take action.”

Controversy over the siting of the school first surfaced when it was granted temporary use of a disused office block after being told there was nothing suitable to house the school in nearby Slough. After the school moved in to what villagers were told would be a temporary basis while it searched for a new home, the Department for Education (DfE) sought permission for it to be allowed to remain.

This was refused by the district council but education officials appealed, paving the way for a hearing chaired by an independent inspector who recommended refusal because of “the severity of the noise impact on local residents”. His recommendation was overruled by Mr Pickles. The parish council’s application is expected to be heard by early next year.

Most of the pupils for the school, planned by the Slough Sikh Education Trust, will be bussed into the village every morning from Slough. The office block site is reported to have been bought by the DfE for £4.5m.

Villagers claim they have been branded as “white middle-class nimbys or even racists” as a result of their opposition.

Khalsa opened with 180 pupils in September, and will build up to 850. It operates an extended day, with extracurricular activities until 6pm.