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Pickles backs free school application

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The communities secretary has been accused of dismissing local decisions after intervening in a planning dispute between a free school and a Labour-run authority.

Eric Pickles last week informed Oxford City Council he would determine the outcome of a planning appeal by Chapel Street Community Schools Trust. The trust’s application to create a free school had been rejected by Oxford councillors.

Mr Pickles said that the school plan was a development of “major importance”.

Bob Price (Lab), leader of Oxford City Council, said the move indicated free schools were being treated differently by the government.

“It would be a big worry if this basic principle of ‘fair play’ was jettisoned because of a dogmatic attachment to the free schools model,” Cllr Price said.

Mr Pickles pledged this year to make it easier for free schools to open.

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