Five schools will not have to close during elections any more when changes to polling stations are approved.
Queen’s Park, Hertford Infant, St Paul’s and Middle Street schools in Brighton and Cottesmore St Mary’s Catholic School in Hove have all had to either fully or partly close when used as polling stations.
Following a public consultation by Brighton and Hove City Council, these schools are among a handful of locations which will no longer be used as polling stations.
Seven schools in the city will still be used as polling stations but of these, only Downs Infants has previously had to close.
The changes will be in place in time for the upcoming police and crime commissioner elections in May next year – but possibly not in time for any general election which could be called before then.
The move follows a public consultation by the city council that took place between August 23 and September 13 this year after more than 450 parents signed a petition asking to move polling stations out of schools.
The petition was led by parents at Downs Infant School in Ditchling Road which will remain a polling place for both Hollingdean and Stanmer ward and St Peter’s and North Laine ward as no alternative could be found.
Headteacher at Downs Infant School, Dr Hildi Mitchell said the school is trialling staying open during elections.
Changes to school routines to accommodate the polling station would mean no hot lunch on election days.
People responding to the public consultation suggested using the One Church in Florence Road.
One anonymous comment from the consultation said: “Why remove the polling station from Hertford school but increase the number of voters at Downs Infants School?
“Surely shutting down any school for a polling station has a negative impact on students, be that Hertford or Downs?
“These voters could potentially utilise One Church as their polling station as there aren’t enormous numbers of them.”
The council’s acting returning officer has worked with the headteacher and governors of Downs Infants to find ways to keep the school open when operating as a polling place.
Logistical reasons were cited as an issue for not using the One Church as it is already a polling station for Preston Park ward and as Downs Infants operates polling stations for two wards, moving would result in voting from three wards at one location.
Members of the authority’s Policy and Resources Committee are expected to approve the changes when they meet on Thursday October 10.
The changes to school polling stations are:
• Voters in Queen’s Park ward who previously went to Queens Park Primary School in Park Street, would be moved to Brighton Youth Centre in Edward Street. The report going before councillors said: “Moving electors from Queens Park Primary School to Brighton Youth Centre should not have an adverse effect on electors who will not need to travel more than 800m to the new polling place and will not need to cross Edward Street.”
• Voters who used to go to Hertford Infant School in Hertford Road, will be sent to City Gate @ The Dip.
• Voters who used to go to St Paul’s CofE School in St Nicholas Road, will be sent to the Brightelm Church and Community Centre where a double polling station will be in operation.
• Regency ward voters who went to Middle Street Primary School will now go to Brighton Town Hall.
• Voters in Goldsmid and Hove Park wards who used to vote at Cottesmore St Mary’s Primary School in The Upper Drive, will go to Hove Rugby Club.
Governers at Cottesmore supported the petition and encouraged parents to get involved with the consultation process. The report said: “While the polling place is located a short distance outside of Goldsmid ward no other venues have been located in the area.
“The Pavilion provides adequate space to operate polling stations for Goldsmid and Hove Park wards and can be accessed from the polling district via crossings on Old Shoreham Road. Parking is also available on the edge of the park.”
The other changes are:
• BHASVIC refectory will be replaced by Possibility Place in Windlesham Avenue as, according to the report it “provides adequate space and is accessible from all parts of the polling district”.
• In Patcham, people who used to vote at the Fountain Centre and in a temporary building at the junction of Carden Hill and Lyminster Avenue, will now go to St Thomas More Church Hall in Braybon Avenue. The new venue has step-free access and space for two polling stations.
• In South Portslade ward the Easthill House polling station in Easthill Park is moving to St Nicholas Parish Centre in South Street.
During the consultation, one person complained about the use of religious buildings.
Their anonymous comment on the consultation said: “I strongly object to the use of religious building as polling stations.
“I do not vote because my polling station is a church and I will not enter.”
Another consultee suggested postal voting for all.
The Policy and Resources Committee is expected to approve the changes when it meets in public at Hove Town Hall from 4pm on Thursday 10 October.