Council responds to anger at ‘secret’ plans to build school on green belt land

Date published: 03 March 2018

Rochdale Borough Council has responded to resident's anger at ‘secret’ plans to build a new high school on green belt land in Middleton - the Council says it has a duty to provide sufficient school places and whilst site investigation work is taking place at Bowlee, "the location of the new school has not been determined".

A spokesperson for the Council said: "As a council we have a statutory duty to provide sufficient school places in the borough for children living here. 

"With rising populations we have been working hard over the past few years to meet required increases and across the borough,  with the support of our schools, we have been extending school place provision by 280 places so far, through  extending and building additional classrooms. 

"For Middleton though, the demand for school places means that a new secondary school is required by 2020.  Population growth shows that by 2021 there will be a shortfall of 194 secondary school places in the Heywood and Middleton area.

"The council needs to meet this demand so council-owned land on an old airfield at Bowlee has been identified as a possible site for a new free school, due to its location and size. 

"An initial site was considered for the proposed school, however, early site investigations established that the space available was not large enough to introduce a new secondary school of the size required (about 180 pupils). Site investigation works for the land at Bowlee, are currently being undertaken, which means at this time the location of the new school has not been determined. 

"Once site investigations have taken place a free school bid can be submitted to the Department for Education (DfE) from the Altus Education Partnership, who currently operate Rochdale Sixth Form College. The Altus Education Partnership will formally consult with the local community on any free school proposal, which will be a very important part of this process.   

"Altus Education Partnership are holding a community engagement event on 5 March 2018 at the David Lloyd Club (Heywood Old Road), where the need for a new free school in the area will be discussed with residents. 

"If a bid was submitted and successful, the council would support and assist by providing any suitable building or land on which such a school could be built and lease it to the successful applicant, which is why this potential site is being investigated.

"Nothing has been decided and so no plans have been drawn up as it has not yet been possible for the applicant to submit a bid to central government because the necessary ‘bidding window’ has not yet opened."

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