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Friday, 18 April 2014

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Multi-million pound school campus plans move step closer

Plans for a multi-million pound school campus for Whitehaven have moved a step forward.

Ian Smith  photo
Ian Smith

Councillors have given financial backing for a feasibility study into the scheme with the nuclear industry expected to follow suit with cash support.

At a meeting of Cumbria County Council’s cabinet, members approved £250,000 for the study which will look at how the Whitehaven Academy, formerly Whitehaven School, St Benedict’s and Mayfield School can be moved to one site in the town.

They approved the spending with the expectation of match funding from the nuclear industry.

Councillor Anne Burns, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We are looking at a new campus for Whitehaven (Academy), St Benedict’s and Mayfield. But we do not have the money for a new school so we are talking with the nuclear industry to see if they have any that they could provide.

“We would replace them in one place with a new building.”

A report presented to councillors said contributions from the nuclear industry plus the council cash would enable the study to start next month.

Last year the county council announced proposals for a £60m “educational village” bringing the three schools together.

These looked to be on hold after Whitehaven School became an academy last month but the plans are still under discussion.

The cost of the new campus has now been estimated at £35m.

Joe Smith, the chief operations officer for the Bright Tribe Trust, the group running Whitehaven Academy, told the News & Star: “Bright Tribe is delighted that funding for a feasibility study has been agreed and is committed to working with all parties involved.”

News of the progress was welcomed by Copeland MP Jamie Reid. He said: “I’ve been pushing for this development for years. We can, without doubt, create the best school campus in the county and this is the key to unlocking the fantastic opportunities available to Whitehaven.

“We need to build on the momentum we’ve established now and get a spade in the ground – begin construction in this calendar year.”

He particularly praised the work done by Ian Smith, executive headteacher at St Benedict’s, saying he had “done a superb job” adding “all partners are showing the necessary commitment to make this plan a success.”

The Nuclear Decommissioning Agency, Nuclear Management Partners and Sellafield Ltd have all been approached.

A spokesman for the nuclear organisations said: “We are in constructive discussions with the council.”

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