THE Brighton community has given strong support for the development of the new $30 million Brighton High School of the site of the School Farm in the centre of Brighton.
Independent polling and the community response to the Education Department’s consultation on the location of the high school point to a strong preference for it to be built on the current site of the Jordan River Learning Federation’s School Farm in the centre of Brighton.
The extensive poll, covering the Brighton municipality and conducted by respected independent pollsters, Myriad Research during August, showed almost 60 percent of respondents in favour of the high school being developed on the School Farm site and the farm being moved to Brighton’s outskirts. Just 31 percent supported the State Government’s options, with just under 10 percent either unsure or unconcerned.
At a well-attended community meeting on August 13, residents spoke strongly in favour of building the high school in the centre of town and moving the Jordan River Learning Federation School Farm to a superior rural site on the outskirts of Brighton.
While claiming the Education Department’s consultation was “blue sky”, with all site options on the table, by then announcing just three site options, it was apparent that the State Government and officials had already removed the School Farm site from consideration.
This was strongly criticised by attendees at the meeting and the Education Department officials had difficulty in defending the decision, other than to say the Government had committed to improving the School Farm on the current site.
The three sites under Government consideration are the Pontville Park sports grounds, the Racecourse Road / Seymour Street recreation ground and a residential-zoned greenfield site on the corner of Elderslie and Brighton Roads.
Deputy Premier and Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff, Opposition Leader Rebecca White, Brighton Mayor Tony Foster and a number of Brighton Councillors attended the meeting and witnessed the strength of the local community feeling.
Residents pointed to serious deficiencies surrounding the sites being considered. They were concerned that the Brighton’s sporting, recreational and community facilities would be compromised or lost if the new high school was to be developed on either the Pontville Park or Racecourse Road sites and that Brighton would lose its capacity to secure the future recreational needs of Tasmania’s fastest growing population The Elderslie road site would need to be purchased at and water and sewerage services installed. As well, it would significantly reduce a site already earmarked for future residential development.
In an impassioned defence of Brighton’s sporting and recreational facilities, Councillor Peter Geard said he would move to take the Government as far as the High Court if it moved to acquire the Pontville Park or Racecourse Road sports grounds.
With costs of acquiring and installing services for the three sites selected, residents were concerned there would be insufficient funds left in the budget to construct the high school.
They questioned why the meeting wasn’t presented with site options for the relocation of the School Farm as part of the process.
The overwhelming view of the meeting was that the School Farm should be moved to suitable, available farming land on Brighton’s outskirts.
Brighton Mayor Tony Foster said the community meeting, attended by about 100 people, was a valuable exercise and provided the opportunity for Minister Rockliff and Education Department officials to gain a true appreciation of the community’s views and feelings.
“The Department has undertaken to report back to the community and if this is genuine consultation and the views expressed taken into account, then the next phase will present site options for the relocation of the School Farm, as well as a determination to build the high school on the current farm site,” Cr Foster said.
“Council has long held the view that the new high school should be developed on the current School Farm site and the farm moved to rural land on the outskirts of Brighton where it will be sustainable and can provide vastly improved education outcomes.
“The meeting clearly demonstrated that our community strongly supports this view.
“The Education Department says its emphasis is to get the best outcomes for students. Well if that is the case, it will quickly decide to move the School Farm, urgently undertake the planning and design for the new high school on the farm site in the centre of Brighton and get on with the job.”
Cr Foster said he and Council had been attempting to meet with Minister Rockliff to discuss the site options with little success.
“However, on leaving the August 13 meeting, the Minister said we should now talk, so it seems he appreciated the strength of community feeling and hopefully, is now receptive to change.
“All logic and common sense say the high school should be developed in the centre of Brighton, close to the Brighton Primary School and the School Farm moved to a more productive rural site.
“The Brighton community understands this and we trust the Government and the Education Department got the message.”
“Council has done all it can do to facilitate and present the community’s view and the Brighton community has made it abundantly clear that it wants a high school and where it wants it located.
“However, Council does not have the ability to select the site. That is a decision of the State Government alone and we can only hope that it respects the overwhelming view of the Brighton community,” Cr Foster said.