Government could cancel new Bristol secondary school amid major delays

The site earmarked for the school at Lyde GreenThe site earmarked for the school at Lyde Green
The site earmarked for the school at Lyde Green | LDR
The school was originally set to open in September 2022

The Government has warned South Gloucestershire Council that it could scrap the new 900-place Lyde Green Secondary School after a series of major delays.

In a letter obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the Department for Education (DfE) has demanded to see “significant progress with this project so that discussions about cancellation are not required”.

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The school, which would be co-located with a new primary school, was originally set to open in September 2022 but this was pushed back 12 months twice to 2024 and then again last spring by another two years.

South Gloucestershire Council says construction industry costs have had an impact on the scheme and that it has submitted a planning application for minor amendments to the previous approval, which it expects to be decided in November.

It says it expects building to start in the first half of next year and finish by mid-2026 ahead of the school opening that September.

But in a letter last month to the council’s director of children’s services Chris Sivers, DfE South West deputy director Lucy Livings said that while agreeing to the deferral to 2026, major projects including the Free School programme, which provides the funding, were “routinely considered for cancellation if they are indefinitely postponed – as there may be other, more pressing uses for the funding across the school capital estate”.

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She wrote: “South Gloucestershire Council should expect any further delays to trigger a formal review of the need for the school and how realistic the delivery of this project is in relation to the need for such a provision.

“We would reiterate that we do want to open this school, therefore the Department for Education will continue to provide the ongoing support it has done over the past two years but would like to see some significant progress with this project so that discussions about cancellation are not required.”

A council spokesperson said the authority was continuing to work in partnership with the DfE, Castle School Education Trust, which would run the 420-place primary school, and Olympus Academy Trust, which would run the secondary.

The spokesperson said: “We have now finalised the designs and layouts of buildings that are designed to provide outstanding environmental performance and an excellent learning environment.

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“A planning application was submitted in August 2023 for minor amendments to the previously approved planning permission, to still achieve the building performance and the teaching and learning needs for the new schools.

“We anticipate this will be determined by November 2023.

“More than £41million has been committed to date for the new school buildings, including agreement from DfE to invest more than £30million in addition to investment of more than £11million of council funding.

“Costs have risen significantly in the construction industry, as well as in the overall economy, which has impacted this project.

“We are now finalising the construction costs aligned to the revised designs and we are working to agree the funding and contractual requirements to deliver the new schools.

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“We intend to build the new schools at the same time, to enable both the new primary school and new secondary school to be completed and then opened at the same time.

“Subject to agreeing the contracts, we expect that building works will begin in the first half of 2024 and that the construction of the new schools will then take approximately two years.

“This means an expected completion date in mid-2026, ready for opening to pupils for the start of the new term in September 2026.”

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