Green light for £7m new school in Morpeth

The former fire station site at Loansdean, Morpeth.
The former fire station site at Loansdean, Morpeth.

Funding of almost £7million has been approved for a new first school on the former fire-station site in Morpeth.

At its meeting on Tuesday, Northumberland County Council’s decision-making cabinet approved the allocation of £6.85million​ of capital funding to deliver the scheme to relocate Morpeth (Goosehill) First School to the Loansdean site.

It follows the approval of a new school across the road on the County Hall site earlier this year, which was subsequently dropped when the Conservatives formed the new administration after the election and abandoned the planned move of the council headquarters to Ashington.

At that planning meeting in March, the decision was preceded by a impassioned plea from the headteacher Elaine Reay, who is desperate for a modern facility to replace the 106-year-old building which currently houses the school. “We don’t want it delayed for any reason,” she added.

The scheme is planned to be completed by September 2019, as the revised proposal now places the same design on the new preferred site of Loansdean.

A report to councillors explains that the change of site and location ‘is unlikely to be regarded as a material change to the tender process. This will enable the preferred bidder to be re-engaged immediately saving many months of re-work’.

The cabinet also approved £200,000​ for an additional car-parking facility of 150 spaces on the site as a replacement for temporary parking arrangements at County Hall.

This proposed parking area will have a separate access road and will be fenced off from the school to ensure there are no child safeguarding issues.

Further consultation on the revised school site will take place before a planning application is submitted, in early January.

Coun Wayne Daley, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We will be working closely with local parents, residents and the wider Morpeth community to consult on the new school development.

“Education is a priority for us and we are committed to deliver the best possible educational environment for the young people of Northumberland.”

The current total 25-year maintenance backlog for Goosehill school is around £1.7million, with the value of works that will need to be carried out in the next five years estimated to be £420,000.

The report adds: ‘Furthermore, the school’s central location in Morpeth town means that it has very little outside space and no playing fields, which the school believes contributes to the decision of many parents who live in the catchment sending their children to other local schools (the school has an outstanding Ofsted grading).

‘The relocation of the school to a new building on the County Hall site would retain the school within its own catchment area, but would provide pupils and staff with an improved learning environment and opportunities to extend the sports curriculum. The vacated school site in the centre of Morpeth will also provide opportunities for appropriate redevelopment.’