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Reader’s letter: Community help could help make site special

I take issue with points raised in A. F. Sunman's letter School Site Needs To Be Developed (News Views, January 11).

I am extremely interested in how much the Lilley and Stone School site at Newark was valued for, as this affects the ability of the charity to help young people.

Mr Sunman states the trustees have ‘strained every sinew to obtain the best possible deal’ but there is no information in the public domain to back up this claim.

Letters stock image
Letters stock image

I and a number of people have repeatedly tried to contact the trustees since the proposed sale of the site became known to provide any help we could, but as far as I'm aware, no one has ever received a reply.

Thousands of new houses are being built around Newark. Mr Sunman argues that this does not negate the need for smaller developments. In fact, there are a number of small projects already ongoing. Do we really need more?

Would the Lilley and Stone site actually be designed to meet the needs of older people as Mr Sunman suggests?

I attended a webinar with the developers, Bildurn, last year. Their outline plan was just a bog-standard housing development with a number of flats and no bungalows or special provisions for the elderly or those less mobile.

Mr Sunman rightly states that it is only a five-minute walk to the centre of town which would help those less mobile or who don't own a car, yet every plot on the proposed development has a number of parking bays attached.

The 300 or so vehicles generated by the proposed development would severely impact the already congested London Road and the quiet residential streets around Harewood Avenue.

Mr Sunman quite rightly comments on the dilapidated state of the buildings and the fact that it has become a hub for anti-social behaviour.

If the trustees have been as diligent in their duties as Mr Sunman would have us believe, how they have they allowed this to happen.

Since the Newark Academy left in 2016, the buildings and the site have been left to decay with very little evidence of maintenance work or provision of site security until the site was sold.

I wholeheartedly agree that the Lilley and Stone site should be redeveloped as soon as possible but there are many more ways that this valuable site could be utilised for the benefit of the community.

Public and private partnership and cooperation would allow some transformative proposals to be considered that would actually benefit the young people of Newark and Balderton, as intended by the trust’s charter, as well as being an asset to the town.

For example, state-of-the-art, low emission, eco-homes could be built on part of the site and be an exemplar for future housing. The sale of these could provide funds for restoring the listed buildings as an arts and crafts centre, or a music school, or as an extension of Newark college to hold different courses. The existing gym and playing fields could be refurbished as a sports hub, and there is even potential to develop the Tennis Club into a Tennis Academy.

Those with the knowledge and expertise in the community can help formulate truly innovative plans. They just need to be involved.

As a community, we need to be much more positive and dynamic in protecting and developing this site for the good of all.

With a bit of thought and effort the Lilley and Stone site could be turned into something really special. — H. ROBERTSON, Newark.

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