£25m Sutton Lawn academy plans dropped by education bosses

10-1553-3''Sutton Lawn from Garden Lane.
10-1553-3''Sutton Lawn from Garden Lane.

EDUCATION bosses have confirmed they have abandoned controversial plans to build a £25m academy on part of Sutton Lawn.

Sutton Centre Community College was to join forces with West Notts College on the scheme - but both have now publicly admitted defeat for the first time this week.

The news came after more than a year of planning and funding setbacks for the ambitious project, which was also backed by Nottinghamshire County Council.

Campaigners, who had fiercely objected to any development on the Lawn welcomed the news, but vowed to continue fighting to protect the town’s biggest public open space.

College bosses are now working on new plans likely to see the Sutton Centre stay on its current High Pavement site.

College principal Simon Martin revealed this week a fresh scheme was already at an ‘advanced stage’, which would still see the school become an academy and refurbish its current buildings.

“The school and West Notts College have accepted it’s not viable to pursue the sponsorship plans that involved the building of a new school on the Lawn,” said Mr Martin.

“However, discussions are underway with a recognised partner - a national organisation.

“Although it’s unlikely there will be funding for a complete new build we would hope that conversion would bring a sum of money to go towards a refurbishment of the existing buildings.”

He added a figure of around £5m could pay for internal and external improvements to the college, which caters for 830 students aged 11 to 18.

Campaigners including Lawnside Community Association welcomed news the Lawn will not now face the huge development.

But group treasurer Stephen Gill urged caution among protesters.

“I am pleased. It’s been a long fight. We know something needs to be done for the Sutton Centre, but it was the open space we were always fighting for.”

As part of its campaign the association submitted an application for the Lawn to get protective village green status, which was rejected by Nottinghamshire County Council in July.

Added Mr Gill: “We are concerned something could still happen in future, because in theory Nottinghamshire County Council could try to build something else there.”

Ashfield District Council had also opposed the scheme.

Nottinghamshire County Council’s education department had already had initial plans for the academy approved by the authority’s own planning committee.

But with the offer of cash snatched away by the new coalition Government in July last year, the plan had no other immediate funding option.

Philip Owen, the county council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services, will deliver an update at County Hall this morning.

“The talks with the new provider towards the centre still becoming an academy are at an advanced stage,” said Coun Owen.

“Any refurbishment could well involve county council money and there may be money from the Government and other providers.”

Added Mr Martin: “Clearly we are disappointed after so much work had gone in with West Notts College to make it happen.

“However we are moving forward with it in another way and I’m very confident those plans will come to fruition.”

The new academy building plans, to be built at the Garden Lane end of the Lawn, were first drawn up to replace the dated High Pavement site, built in the early 1970s.

Said Louise Knott, director of learner engagement at West Notts College: “Ourselves with many other providers across the country were disappointed the Government’s Building Schools for the Future project was halted in the way it was.

“Both the school and the college felt it was the right time to move on. The decision (to end the partnership plan for a new building) was made amicably.”