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Campaigners continue fight as Stoke Poges Sikh school opens its doors
CAMPAIGNERS against a Sikh academy in Stoke Poges have vowed to keep up their fight against its long-term future in the village as the school opens its doors to pupils this week.
The Deparment for Education used new legislation to secure the former Pioneer UK building in Hollybush Hill for temporary use by the Khalsa Secondary Academy.
However, these ‘Permitted Development Rights’ only allow the school to open for 12 months, and villagers intend to fight the government over any move to make the arrangement permanent.
The DfE has said it is yet to make up its mind on the long term future of both Khalsa Academy and the former office site.
The Free School, run by the Slough Sikh Education Trust, opens for business today to year seven pupils only.
Saera Carter, vice-chairman of the parish council and a spokesman for the campaign, said: “We are extremely disappointed that a school catering primarily for Slough's need has been imposed on a village that doesn't want or need a secondary school.
“This whole process has been completely flawed and residents of the village feel like their views and opinions have been ignored by the Department for Education, despite assurances from Lord Nash that the democratic process would be respected.”
Campaigners criticised the DfE’s decision to withdraw the application for the Khalsa Secondary Academy the day before its council planning hearing.
The application had been recommended for refusal after council officers labelled the plan as unsuitable greenbelt development.
Stoke Poges villagers have argued since the plan was announced early this year that there is no desire for a school there.
A party from the village delivered a 5,000-strong ‘Keep our village a village’ petition to Downing Street in June.
Education minister Lord John Nash was due to travel to meet villagers last month, but cancelled at the last minute after BBC Newsnight cameras arrived at the scene.
The DfE now says villagers have been invited to speak with the minister at a private meeting in Westminster this month instead.
The parish council now says it is “optimistic” the DfE will now find a location in Slough to permanently house the school.
A spokesman from the DfE said: "There is a severe need for secondary school places in Slough, and we are working with free school proposers and the local councils to identify suitable sites in the area.
"The Secretary of State has decided that Pioneer House will be the temporary location for Khalsa free school. A final decision has not yet been made on the long term use of the building.”
Residents continue to lobby the DfE, MP Dominic Grieve and other representatives and are considering mounting a legal challenge against any decision to allow the school to stay beyond a year.
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