Council to invest millions to build new schools in 'bold step'

PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 January 2018

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Somerset County Council has made a ‘bold step’ by pledging to spend £140million on building new schools and improving older ones across the county.

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The authority announced plans this week to build 24 new schools and replace or expand other schools over the next seven to 10 years. The blueprint includes plans for a new primary school for Highbridge.

The announcement comes shortly after the Wessex Learning Trust revealed it wants to build a Wessex Church of England Primary Academy to serve the proposed 600-home housing development at Brue Farm.

The school would initially open with a nursery and up to two reception classes of 30 children, with the chance to increase its capacity to 420 pupils.

A council spokesman said: “We have a responsibility to plan ahead and work to ensure there are school spaces in the right places, taking into account housing development and population change.

“The intention is for a new primary school to be built in Highbridge providing a minimum of 200 spaces.

“The details of how and when this will be delivered is still being planned.”

The council’s investment will aim to meet a growing demand for school places.

The ‘ambitious’ plans would see 14 new sites for proposed school development, an additional 2,300 secondary places by 2023 and an anticipated 19 projects to expand primary and specialist schools.

The first phase of the programme – believed to be the council’s biggest schools investment – will cost about £140million, with the council funding about £116million.

Council leader David Fothergill said: “I am proud to lead the council as it takes this huge decision which will see brand new schools built, with others extended or improved in all of our major towns and many villages.

“It is a big step, it is a bold step, but it is the right step for us to make.

“There is a lot of work still to be done, planning and consultation will need to take place, but our plans are ambitious, they are exciting and I am sure parents, families, our communities will be as excited as we are.

“The time is right to borrow at ultra-low rates for the right building programme and who can argue investing in our children’s future is not the right thing to do.”

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