Delays over decision on free school

PHOTO. KEVIN McGUINNESS.'Dr. Bulvinder Michael wants to set up an Academy in Chorley
PHOTO. KEVIN McGUINNESS.'Dr. Bulvinder Michael wants to set up an Academy in Chorley

A decision over a proposed new free school in Chorley has been stalled.

Plans for the Chorley Career and Sixth Form Academy’s planned base on Water Street were expected to be approved by councillors at Chorley Council this week.

But they asked for the decision on the controversial school to be deferred to allow for consultation with Lancashire County Council.

Free schools are decided by the Department for Education and are not subject to local authority control.

The only element of the plans Chorley Council will decide is if the base at the former tax office on Lingmell House, Water Street, is appropriate for a school.

Leader of Chorley Council, Coun Alistair Bradley, said: “The council have to look at it as a planning authority. There wasn’t a decision about the rights and wrongs of the free school.

“The committee asked for more information from the county council because there were things they wanted to know to make a decision about several things.”

In documents, the Gill Academy Trust, which is behind the plans, said it was expected that “most students travel to and from the site at the beginning and the end of the school day on foot”.

The council disputed that 15 car parking spaces on site for 27 members of staff was enough.

The free school hopes to set up in the town in September if given the nod by the Department for Education, with 60 year 7 students and 100 aged 16 and over.

Chorley Council announced last week officers would write to them to ask for a further consultation on the plans because they believe the school “will not a have a positive impact on Chorley and its young people”.

The authority also says it is concerned the plans are “under developed” and not enough detail has been released to allow decision-makers to come to an informed choice about whether it should be allowed to go ahead. A consultation exercise ended at the end of April.

Coun Bradley said: “There wasn’t detail in the plans about parking and disruption to residents, and about the actual need for the school.

“They (free school bosses) said there was adequate areas for parking and spaces for parents to drop off but some of the local councillors had doubts about this.

“If it was a public or private school it would be totally different. It’s all a bit new.”

The school has recently announced some year 7 students will be given free uniforms and free tuition will also be given to year 9, 10 and 11 pupils.

A spokesperson for Chorley Academy said: “The case for an academy is clear and has formed part of our consultation which has been very well received.

“What we are offering is not currently available in Chorley and demand for school places across the borough is increasing as a result of the housing developments in the town.

“We are delighted with the response we’ve received from parents, students and local business leaders as well as teachers who have applied to be part of the academy.”