Funding for a free school in Chorley has been sensationally withdrawn at the eleventh hour.
The Gill Academy Trust had put forward controversial plans to open the Chorley Career and Sixth Form Academy in the town.
The plans for a temporary site for the school were due to go before Chorley Council’s development control committee on Tuesday night - but were withdrawn after the Department for Education announced it would not fund the project.
A spokesman for the Gill Academy Trust, said the Department for Education had bowed to local pressure and ‘lacked vision’ when decided whether or not to give the green light to their venture.
They said: “The Department for Education (DfE) has withdrawn funding for the Chorley Career and Sixth Form Academy.
“The DfE had put in a bid for a site in South East Chorley for a new school to be built which had been accepted and planning permission for change of use at the former tax office on Water Street had also been submitted.
“We are awaiting a written confirmation from the DfE explaining their decision, and we don’t believe they have led the project effectively for a successful outcome for a new free school in Chorley.
“They seemed to have bowed to local political pressure to stop the project and lacked the conviction and vision to see the project through.”
Free schools are state-funded but are not under local education authority control and are given the final go-ahead by central Government.
The plans had previously been slammed by headteachers at Chorley’s six other high schools who said the venture would divert much-needed funds away from them.
Labour-led Chorley Council had also produced a report when they took control of the authority earlier this year saying they believed the school would ‘not have a positive impact on Chorley and its young people’.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “All applications go through a fairly rigorous process in order to become a free school.
“We look at lots of applications and they have to meet very rigorous standards.”
Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle said he had tabled questions in Parliament and had ongoing correspondence with Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove.
He said: “This is great news for Chorley. I have been against the establishment of a free school in Chorley from the outset.
“It was clear that any free school would take funding away from the existing schools in Chorley, which I know are dedicated to providing good quality education to all children.”
- For in-depth coverage of the decision pick up next week’s copy of the Chorley Guardian