Talks over Daventry school's lease which prevents under-14s from using building are taking place

The newly renamed Randolph Building
The newly renamed Randolph Building

Daventry District Council and Parker E-Act Academy are in talks over the conditions of the lease currently preventing under-14s from using the former UTC building.

At a strategy group meeting last week the issue was raised in an emergency question submitted by the council's Labour group comprised of councillors Wendy Randall, Ken Ritchie and Jason Pritchard.

After some back-and-forth between Cllr Randall and council leader Chris Millar, the chief executive Ian Vincent addressed the issue of the conditions of the lease agreement, which pre-dates the Parker Academy's takeover of the former UTC building, now named the Randolph Building.

He said: “What this council granted that lease for was for a UTC; was for a building that had both an educational and vocational element. The reason that 14-19 clause was put in was because at that time that’s exactly how UTCs were set up by the Government.”

“They [Education Funding Agency] agreed to the clause because that’s exactly what we were granting them a lease for that land," he added.

“The UTC failed and the ESFA have the power through the Secretary of State to assign the lease to another educational establishment. That’s their gift, it’s also written into our lease agreement with them providing they get Secretary of State approval.

“We asked for a copy of the Secretary of State’s approval because this has been an ongoing issue.”

Mr Vincent went on to explain that no motion on the conditions of the lease was brought before the council because Parker had agreed to take on the building with the current conditions in place.

Earlier in the meeting, Cllr Millar told members: "The Education Skills Funding Agency, E-ACT themselves and the school have confirmed in writing they’re happy to comply with the existing lease.”

The school were therefore aware that under-14s would not be able to use the facility and it was their error not to communicate the information to parents, who expressed their bemusement and disappointment over the conditions earlier this month.

“We are exploring ways now to bring a report back to members in due course when we’ve resolved other issues that are outstanding," said Mr Vincent.

“When I say other issues, the head is quite happy to look at potential shared use of the school and that sort of stuff requires fitting to a lease agreement.

“So when we have something to report to members we will report to members. At this moment in time, we are in constructive dialogue with the school.”

Cllr Millar said that positive talks between the parties were ongoing but he refused to say in the strategy meeting what the council’s position was given that during negotiations it was unwise to give away one’s position.

He also said that no statement from the council would be put out until negotiations were completed.

In a letter published in this week's Daventry Express, the Labour group wrote that Cllr Millar had, during the strategy meeting, "refused to confirm that Daventry District Council would be prepared to allow the academy unrestricted use of the UTC building unless it was willing to accept other demands by the council on unrelated issues which might enable it to recover some of its investment in the building."