Residents pledge a fight to block academy plans

RESIDENTS are promising to oppose developers of a controversial academy in Hull as the final decision draws nearer.

The council's Cabinet agreed last year to press on with its radical shake-up of secondary school provision, the 400m Building Schools for the Future programme, despite a wave of protests.

A planning application will be heard later this summer over building a replacement for Sir Henry Cooper School, sponsored by Hull University, on Princess Elizabeth Playing Fields.

An event today aims to allay concerns about the development, which could open in 2012.

However, a group of residents backed by local ward councillor Dave McCobb say developers still have a fight on their hands, citing flooding, traffic problems and loss of green space as major concerns.

They say the fields, which flooded up to a depth of nine inches last summer, act like a giant soakaway and are unconvinced by plans to build huge underground storage tanks for water under the new school and pump it later into the Barmston Drain.

Michael Richardson, chairman of the local residents' association, said: "If you go any time after it rains there's great soggy patches.

"There's apparently natural springs in the area.

"Unless someone dredges the drain right through all it does is move our problem to someone else."

Mr Richardson said they believed the land was given as a gift to the people of the city in 1936 and that the owner, Hull Council, should not allow charity land to be developed. Legal action was a possibility if the council did not enforce protective covenants.

He added: "Building Schools for the Future tend to brush us aside as if we were a fly, an annoyance.

"They say they have given notice to the Secretary of State that they are going to close Sir Henry Cooper – and they haven't even got planning permission.

"They are going to have a fight on their hands."

A fellow campaigner, former school teacher Doreen Richardson, said it was ridiculous that the council was backing the idea of water-storing "aqua greens" at the "same time as destroying one that works".

She said: "We are convinced that our houses were saved by the fields. A school only yards away was closed for eight months because of the damage."

She added: "People say we are anti the school. That couldn't be any further from the truth. It's just the wrong location."

Coun McCobb added: "I'm personally not convinced that it is the best site. It is quite a densely built-up part of Hull and I think building on an open green space should be absolutely the last resort."

However, project manager Simon Dixon said consultants Halcrow had considered the flooding issues.

He said: "They are telling us it shouldn't interfere and add to the local water table and shouldn't cause any future flooding issues."

The school would be recycling brown water on site, as well as having underground tanks.

Mr Dixon said concerns about sports provision had been addressed and cricket and football teams as well as Sports England were backing the proposals, which would see two grass cricket squares built over. In their place there would be a cricket square and two artificial wickets, indoors and outdoors.

There would also be a full-size rugby and football pitch, two under-14 football pitches, four multi-use games areas with flood-lights and changing facilities.

The remaining 2.5 acres of the site would be upgraded for dogwalkers and people wanting a kickabout. They were also working with other schools to improve their sports provision, including installing four cricket squares at Oak Road playing fields.

Mr Dixon said the land would stay in the council's ownership and the academy would take out a long lease. "People have been given a lot of misinformation which is what we are trying to add-ress and allay some of their fears."

A public drop-in event will be held today between 4pm and 7pm at the Citysafe mobile unit on the car park at the south-east corner of Princess Elizabeth Playing Fields.