Plans to replace Northumberland schools infested with asbestos move a step closer

Long-awaited proposals to replace two Northumberland schools have cleared an important hurdle.

By James Robinson
Friday, 22nd April 2022, 12:19 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd April 2022, 2:50 pm

At a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s family and children’s services overview and scrutiny committee, councillors were presented with a report containing an outline business case for the replacement of buildings at Astley High School and Whytrig Middle School in Seaton Delaval.

Members were told that the £40 millon proposals were a “priority” for the council as the current buildings, which are next door to each other, are no longer fit for purpose, with £15.7 million worth of repairs needed.

A high level of asbestos present in the buildings also means it would be virtually impossible to carry out any work without closing a significant part of the school.

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Astley Community High School in Seaton Delaval is no longer fit for purpose.

The council’s head of school organisation and resources, Sue Aviston, explained that a number of options had been considered, but the one supported by schools, the community and officers was a new build on The Avenue site.

The development would feature a “hybrid park and stride” system, with a car park just three minutes walk from the school to allow parental drop-off and alleviate traffic pressure.

Ms Aviston said: “It has been very clearly stated the need to update the buildings. It is a priority for the council.

“Not everyone will support it, especially when you include relocating a school site, but the vast majority attending consultation events are supportive.

“The site we are recommending is in the greenbelt, requiring very special circumstances to get planning permission. The benefits should outweigh any harm however, and planners say it could be supported.”

Ms Aviston added the school would be Northumberland’s first Net Zero school, and the money saved on running costs would be ploughed into improving teaching and learning.

The report was approved by councillors and will be sent to the council’s cabinet meeting next week for final approval. After this, a detailed business case will be developed and procurement for contractors sought to build the schools, as well as planning permission.

It is expected that the detailed business case will go before cabinet for final approval in April 2023.