The Bristol Free School Trust has confirmed the school will not be moving on to the site of the old St Ursula’s School, dashing the hopes of campaigning parents.
DTZ, an independent planning consultancy commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE), assessed the
viability of both sites. Its report is understood to identify “considerable planning risks” with the former St Ursula’s site.
This followed a meeting with Bristol City Council’s planning department that identified a number of planning constraints that could limit the extent of any new build development on the site.
Highway issues associated with the St Ursula’s site were described as “potentially an insurmountable barrier to achieving planning permission” in the report.
On this basis the DfE has decided to only pursue the Brentry site as the permanent site for the Free School.
The Burghill Road site, where Bristol Free School opened in September, will now be fully developed so that the school has capacity for 750 students and, if agreed in the future, a sixth form.
Chairman of Bristol Free School Trust, Blair King, said: “We recognise this news will come as a disappointment to many parents who campaigned for Bristol Free School to be permanently situated at St Ursula’s.
“Parents’ Voice worked very hard to keep St Ursula’s out of Administration so that it could enter the state sector. When this attempt failed, Bristol Free School Trust worked tirelessly to establish either an ‘All Through’ or Secondary Free School on the site.
“Whilst we believe we provided a very strong argument for capital investment, we have to recognise this independent, expert advice about serious planning constraints. Despite this site decision, we will not
let down the local parents who have supported our school campaign. We will guarantee 120 of 150 Year 7 places every year to families in our Neighbourhood Partnership Area of Henleaze, Stoke Bishop and Westbury-on-Trym.
“The Burghill Road site, which is only a few hundred yards outside of BS9, is within walking distance for many. We already know this site has great potential. Most importantly, we have opened a school that is already establishing an excellent reputation due to its high standards evidenced by the strong local interest at our recent open days. It is the secondary school that our local children have deserved for so long.”
Parent Phil Radford, who set up the campaign group Parents’ Voice, told the Evening Post: “I seriously doubt the validity and independence of the commissioned study.
“A school in Southmead will draw children from Henbury and Orchard, undermining the progress made in these schools, while failing to meet the long campaigned-for objective of a school in the community of need.”