Meeting on Friday will decide whether to continue opposition to new school scheme through the courts

A crux meeting will take place on Friday to decide if councillors will support a judicial review to oppose the building of North Devon’s first free school.

The extraordinary meeting was called after dozens of people showed up at Torridge’s full council meeting last week to oppose the building of a new school for the Route 39 Academy.

Last month, the school, currently based at Clovelly, won its two-and-a-half-year battle to build a permanent school site for up to 700 pupils at Steart Farm, near Bucks Cross.

The planning appeal was set to be refused by the planning inspector, but the Secretary of State overruled the decision at the eleventh hour.

Both Route 39 and the Say No to Route 39 group are now rallying supporters to show solidarity for their respective sides at the meeting on Friday.

Route 39 has published a statement urging parents to attend the meeting. It said: “After all the years of work taken to secure permission, it is particularly disappointing to be once again threatened by the possibility of further delay.”

‘Legal advice’

A spokesperson for the Say No to Route 39 group said it had already sought legal advice from a barrister and there was a ‘good chance’ of winning a judicial review.

The spokesperson said: “This is not about fighting a school but standing up for localism, democracy and the protection of out Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty for the future of everyone’s children.”

James Morrish, deputy leader of Torridge, said the council would be presented with options from its senior solicitor at the extraordinary meeting.

He said: “This will include an appraisal of the option of challenging the decision of the Secretary of State and an assessment of the potentially large sums of public money that may need to be committed in pursuing such a challenge.

“Councillors will then make a decision on what action, if any, they wish to take going forward.”

Members of the public can attend at Bideford Town Hall at 6.30pm on Friday.

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