CLAPHAM will turn into a village filled with old people if the school is allowed to close, campaigners against the proposals have said.

A public consultation into a move to shut Clapham Primary School ends today with an outcry for it to remain open garnering a growing raft of local support.

Earlier this year North Yorkshire County Council mooted its intentions that the premises be closed and a consultation period was opened in February.

This move followed a meeting of the school governors in November last year.

A spokesman for the county council said school governors had 'reluctantly' voted to consult on the closure after numbers of children attending have fallen in recent years from 42 in 2014/15 to the current 28 and with further reductions predicted.

The expected timetable is that all responses from the consultation will be considered by the county council executive on April 16 with a final decision on June 25.

County Councillor Patrick Mulligan, executive member for education and skills, said: “We make this decision with great regret. North Yorkshire does not take the decision lightly to initiate a process with could see the closure of one of our small schools."

Local support has been shown to persuade the education authority to keep the school open. Among the calls to halt the plans were those from the Ingleborough Estate, owned by the Farrer family for the past 200 years, which built the school in 1864.

Philip Farrer, on behalf of the trustees said: "The closure of the school would be contrary to government policy of supporting and bringing sustainable growth to rural communities and boosting rural areas. Clapham would turn into a village for the retired and a source for holiday homes, this would be a disaster for the community. With the shop, the church tower and the implementation of B4RN (Broadband For Rural North), the community and Estate have a unique relationship with good track record of working together to make things happen. This should be no exception with the school."

On Sunday evening, Bishop Helen-Ann McLeod Hartley, of Leeds Diocese, visited the village to listen to the concerns of the local community about the proposals at a well-attended gathering of ‘church in the pub’ at the New Inn, Clapham she offered pastoral support for the community regarding North Yorkshire County Council’s plans to close the school.

Denise Wilson, member of the Clapham Parochial Church Council said: "We are resolute in our support for the school. The church needs to listen to the concerns of the community and prevent the closure of Clapham Primary School; parents who want to see their children educated at a faith school are not being presented with realistic alternatives."

The Rt Rev Dr Jonathan Gibbs, Bishop of Huddersfield, who chairs the Diocesan Board of Education for the Church of England Diocese of Leeds said:

“The Anglican Diocese of Leeds is deeply committed to supporting our rural schools and communities.

“We recognise the vital importance of such schools to their local communities and are engaged in ongoing strategic discussions with North Yorkshire County Council about the sustainability of these schools as part of our commitment to supporting rural life in North Yorkshire.”

The Friends of Clapham School are submitting a petition with over 200 signatures in support of Clapham Church of England Primary School to North Yorkshire County Council when the consultation ends.

Tracey Bilton of the Friends said: "It’s important our local representatives understand the strength of feeling in our community and everyone needs to express their opinions on the proposed closure of our school which is such an important feature of our rural community.

"Only last May, the school governors met with parents to discuss the current sustainability of the school and proposed a plan for next year to save money. The governors had a strong proposal for the future and were working on a solid staffing structure. We were given the strong impression by North Yorkshire County Council the school had confirmed a three-year plan to ensure the stability of our children’s education."

Iain Crossley, chairman of the Community Action Group, which is working with the school governors, said: "It is important both the council and the diocese have a joined-up policy to support rural areas. In 2017, Horton-in Ribblesdale was closed and this year the council has announced the development of affordable housing in Horton to attract families into the Yorkshire Dales National Park. We understand some local schools are already at capacity and need to ensure children receive a consistent quality education."

Also speaking out against closure is the charity Friends of the Dales.

Chairman Mark Corner said: “We are very concerned that the closure of Clapham Primary School would further reduce the sustainability of its local community.

"We recognise the challenge of low pupil numbers but to close the school at a time when significant efforts are being made to reverse the decline in the number of younger people living in the Yorkshire Dales National Park would, we suggest, be a regrettable decision.

Recently, the Leaders of the four constituent district councils and the National Park Authority have agreed an objective in the National Park Management Plan 2019-2024 to ‘Undertake a five-year programme of measures to promote the National Park as a place to live for younger, working age households (18-44) to help halt the decline in their numbers.’

There are already positive developments in Clapham with the delivery of new housing. We suggest that NYCC needs to have confidence that this plan will deliver."