FROGS are pleased with the decision to withdraw the planning application. It gives us some extra time as we develop a Charitable Trust and apply for funding in the hope of being able to bid when the school is eventually sold. It also offers space for direct dialogue with the Diocese and with senior Derbyshire County councillors about our plans, which they have so far refused. Their original planning application claimed, without any evidence, that conversion to flats was the only viable option. In spite of loads of press publicity and contact from FROGS they merely maintained that no party had come forward with any concrete offers. In the new Localism Act the national Government recognises that every neighbourhood has buildings that play a vital role in local life and if they are sold into private use this can be a real loss to the community.But community groups often need more time to organise a bid and raise money than the private enterprises against whom they are bidding. In its 'Community Right to Bid' provision the Act, which comes into force in April, would give FROGS the time to develop a bid and raise money to buy the school building when it comes on the open market. FROGS and over 300 supporters will be watching to see if the Conservative County Council follows the lead of Government in recognising the rights and freedoms the Act offers to local people, or will it merely pay it lip service as in the original application.
We have never challenged the legal obligation of the Diocese to sell the building, nor the County's right to the proceeds. All we have wanted is to protect this lovely building to enhance community life consistent with the purpose for which it was given to the community in 1852. Our on-line petition of over 300 signatures, together with comments, is an indicator of the enormous level of support we have received so far.