New school set to be approved

An artist's impression by AHR Architects submitted with the planning application for the new Duchess's Community High School.
An artist's impression by AHR Architects submitted with the planning application for the new Duchess's Community High School.
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Alnwick’s new high school could get the green light tonight, raising hopes it could open to pupils in September 2016.

The full application for the rebuilding of the Duchess’s Community High School on a new site at Greensfield, to the south of the town, goes before Northumberland County Council’s planning and environment committee tonight, where it is recommended for approval.

In October, the Gazette reported that there were issues related to the planning application – submitted in July – to be dealt with., but following updated information, the Highways Agency no longer has concerns, although the objection from the council’s own sustainable drainage systems (SuDS) team remains.

The planning officer’s report to tonight’s meeting recommends that the scheme should be granted permission, subject to the final comments of the SuDS officer as well as the county archaeologist.

Back in June, when we reported that the scheme to rebuild the school would be shifting into top gear in the following months, the hope was that the application would be submitted in August and signed off in November.

If approved tonight, that schedule would be maintained and the hoped-for start date for construction would be this month or January. That would mean a final handover of the new school in August 2016 for the start of the academic year that September.

It has been a long road to this point and it was more than two years ago – May 2012 – that Education Secretary Michael Gove announced that the Duchess’s was one of 261 schools across the country which would be rebuilt through the Priority School Building Programme (PSBP).

The demolition and redevelopment of Bedlingtonshire Community High School, which is also being funded through the PSBP, is also set to get the go-ahead tonight.