Councillors reject funding bid to rebuild Todmorden High School with straw

Todmorden High School.
Todmorden High School.

Calderdale Councillors have refused the chance to bid for funding to help re build Todmorden High School using natural materials and straw bails.

Straw Works, an internationally recognised leader for design and build using strawbale and natural materials had the opportunity to participate in a European Interreg funding bid that would have brought 50 per cent of the build cost for a public building to Todmorden.

Barbara Jones from Todmorden

Barbara Jones from Todmorden

Their director, Barbara Jones, a Todmorden resident, had the idea to use this opportunity to rebuild the Todmorden High School, which recently lost out on extra Government funding for a much needed rebuild.

The Interreg project would mean partnerships from several EU countries would collaborate on building a public building out of strawbales in each participating country, and her idea was to bring much needed skills and training to Todmorden through her School of Natural Building. “The new High School would have been built partly by local people and pupils from the school, learning how to work with natural materials,” she said.

Calderdale Council would have to make a contribution of 3,000 Euros for the application but they could have stood to gain £2.5 or 3million according to Barbara Jones.

“Straw Works is a company with a can-do attitude, and their experience is that potential hurdles can usually be overcome if there is a willingness to make things happen. The response from Calderdale councillors shows they do not have this willingness.

“This project, if successful with funding, would have put Todmorden at the centre of modern design for thermal efficiency and affordability, provided the town with a skills boost, and brought hundreds more visitors to find out about our cutting edge ideas, as well as replacing the current school with an up to date thermally efficient and healthy school that would see reduced running costs over it’s lifetime.” Calderdale already has one strawbale building in the library at Shelf, built several years ago.

Calderdale was asked if they would participate in a partnership with Straw Works and four other Eu countries in an application for funding to be led by France.

However, a spokesman said: “The council has already allocated £5m for a new teaching block at Todmorden High School. These funds were invested in a government framework scheme which provides us with significantly increased buying power, so we could be confident we were getting the best value for money possible.

“This framework also has eco-friendly requirements, and we’ve worked together with the school to shape proposals for the block. We are not opposed to the idea of a straw build building, and may consider straw build options in the future, but unfortunately the approach from Straw Works was far too late for us to consider it for this project as we are legally committed to the existing scheme.”