NEW SITE: Approved sale of land for a new secondary school in Middlehaven
The land which the council has sold to the DfE to build Outwood Academy Riverside, Image: Google Maps
Middlesbrough Council’s executive has approved the sale of land for a new secondary school in Middlehaven.
Outwood Academy Riverside is currently temporarily based at Russell Street, however, this sale will allow for a new site for the school to be built near Middlesbrough College.
The council will sell the site for £1,211,596, plus fees, but has pledged to invest that money back into the project.
It has also said that it will spend up to £1.7m to assist the Department for Education (DfE) with remediation works to prepare the land at the site.
It is hoped that the new school will be ready to open in September 2023 as the temporary site will have reached full capacity by then.
Speaking at the Overview and Scrutiny Board, Cllr Chris Hobson said: “It seems to have gone on forever and ever this Middlehaven school and we just don’t seem to be getting any progress.
“I can remember signing this off, I can remember us sitting in an office waiting to sign this off with the DfE and it seems to me that it was forever ago.
“We just keep getting the reports that it’s coming along, but as I say it just seems like such a long long time and to me, it’s the children that are losing out on this really.”
In response, the council’s chief executive Tony Parkinson said: “You’re right, it’s been, let’s say protracted with the DfE, it’s been an incredibly complex and difficult exercise.
“What this report does today though is bring certainty, so the details of the land and the remediation of the land so the school can be built, have all been dealt with.
“All the finance elements have been dealt with and what this does is it approves the sale to the DfE, it’s theirs and they can then get on and build the school, which is great.
“But it does feel like it has gone on forever, you’re right, but it’s a seminal moment in the project if we get the land sold.”
Despite work on the site being undertaken in 2017, after the exchange of the land with the Homes and Communities Agency, there were still concerns about contamination, and part of the site was classed as being in an Environment Agency flood zone.
The school was meant to be built on the site ready for pupils to start in September 2021, however, the need for investigations of the land has led to delays.
There was a risk that the school would not open over DfE fears about spiralling costs, after the department initially estimated that it would cost £6.9m to make the site safe.
There were also further costs to prepare the temporary site.
As a result, the Regional School Commissioner (RSC) said that they could not agree to an Academy Funding Agreement risking the school not opening and children unable to secure secondary school places in Middlesbrough.
Therefore, it was decided that the cost for remediation work should be deducted from the sale of the site and then, if costs rose to more than that, it would be split between the DfE and Middlesbrough Council. Both parties agreed to pay up to £1.7m each for the works.
The most recent costs suggest that £4.33m will be needed, which means that the council will have to pay a further £1.55m.
However, this amount could change as the council is currently checking these figures and also trying to find any cost-cutting measures.
Speaking at the executive meeting on November 9, Andy Preston said: “I was speaking to Rob Brown (director of education and partnerships) and…we don’t know the exact amount it will cost the government but we believe it might be circa £30m.
“So actually when you look at that it’s a relatively small amount we are talking about here, they are big sums to us, but the whole project is quite remarkable, the first secondary school in Middlesbrough for ages in a brilliant location with a brilliant ethos and a great operator so I am really excited about this.”
The Academy Funding Agreement was signed in February 2020 which meant that Outwood Academy Riverside could accept pupils from September with a maximum capacity of 450.
In 2020, it welcomed 100 pupils and in 2021 it offered 150 places, with another 150 being allocated in 2022.
Words: Emily Craigie, Local Democracy Reporter
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