Liberal Democrat-run Sutton Council has bought a former hospital site in Belmont for a new secondary school to meet the borough's expanding rolls.
The council had been looking for a site for a new school to open by 2017 and has been negotiating with the Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust.
The old Sutton Hospital site in Belmont, linked to opportunities to develop life sciences with the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and the Institute of Cancer Research, was identified as a favoured location
The NHS Trust decided to allow public authorities to bid for it and announced Sutton Council as the priority purchaser in December 2014. This cleared the way for the council to start direct negotiations with the Trust to buy the land. Greenshaw Learning Trust has been given permission to open the secondary school.
Since identifying the site, the council has been carrying out a feasibility study which demonstrated the viability of building a school.
The site in Belmont is part of an area identified by Sutton Council, the Royal Marsden and the Institute of Cancer Research for the establishment of what's believed to be Europe’s leading life science cluster. It’s planned to work with the school’s sponsor to develop a curriculum concentrating on the life sciences – creating a range of outstanding opportunities for students.
The purchase of the site comes weeks after the Government approved plans for a free school for Sutton to open in 2017 – which is when the council predicts a new secondary school will be needed to meet the rising demand for places.
As a result of the Government’s decision, the Education Funding Agency will now decide formally where the free school will be built.
Lib Dem Leader of Sutton Council, Cllr Ruth Dombey, welcomed the latest development: “We are proud to have secured a site for a new secondary school and to be able to offer it to help the Education Funding Agency to help it make a decision and to enable the new school to be opened in two years’ time.”
Ruth Dombey said: “Sutton is one of the best places in the country to go to school and raise a family and it’s why our residents have been able to have the one of the highest first place preferences for school places in London.”
The purchase price of the Belmont site, £7,863 000, was based on a professional valuation of the site by the district valuer and was jointly commissioned by the council and the NHS Trust.
Sutton Council has already secured £10.1m to fund the expansion of four more forms of entry (600 additional pupils over 5 years) within its existing schools from 2015.
The council has also earmarked a further five secondary schools to share 5.5 more forms of entry between them from 2016 (825 additional pupils over 5 years).
In addition, the council wants its new school to be ready for 2017.
The pressure on school places is a result of a 33 per cent increase in Sutton births since 2001 and more people choosing to live in the borough.
In September, Sutton Council also outlined plans to expand two primary schools – Hackbridge Primary School and Cheam Common Junior School, along with a special school, Sherwood Park School.
Phase 1 of the Secondary School Expansion Programme will see five schools expand from September 2015. They are:
- Carshalton Boys Sports College (1 Form of Entry, or 30 students in a class x 5 years)
- Carshalton High School for Girls (1FE)
- Glenthorne High School (1FE)
- Nonsuch High School (0.5FE)
- Sutton Grammar School (0.5FE)
Phase 2 of the Secondary School Expansion Programme has identified the following schools for expansion from 2016.
- Greenshaw High School (2FE)
- Overton Grange School (1FE)
- St Philomena’s High School (1FE)
- The John Fisher School (1FE)
- Wallington County Grammar School (0.5FE)