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Wednesday, 20 August 2014

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Study seeks sites for town’s new education campus

POTENTIAL sites for a proposed multi-million-pound educational campus in Whitehaven are to be investigated.

By Sarah Robinson

A £500,000 feasibility study will look at whether Mayfield School, St Benedict’s School and The Whitehaven Academy can be brought together on one site.

There would be new buildings for each school on the same site. They would operate independently but share specialist areas and community sports and leisure facilities.

The Whitehaven Academy and St Benedict’s sites are currently being looked at, but there is the potential for others to be considered if they become available. The studies are expected to take around four to five months.

Sellafield Ltd, Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) will contribute £250,000 towards the study. Cumbria County Council, which is carrying out the study, will pay the remaining sum.

A county council spokesperson said: “Feasibility studies are the first, critical, step. The problems with the current buildings are well known and we believe there is an urgent need for action.

“These feasibility studies will give us a clear picture of what’s possible from a technical perspective and allow us all to move on to the fundamental decisions around how the development of the campus itself would be funded.”

A strategic business case is also being prepared which will look at the basic case for the project.

Further project decisions are likely in the summer, once partners have carefully considered the feasibility study findings and strategic business case.

Partners include Cumbria County Council, the three schools and academy sponsor Bright Tribe, the three nuclear organisations, Copeland MP Jamie Reed and Copeland Council.

Mr Reed said he hopes a new multi-million-pound campus will help to change the local culture around education and inspire pupils.

“Our culture, our sport, our healthcare, our industry and our economy will all be improved by this,” he said.

“The success of this campus, what it means and what it represents should become as synonymous with the town as the harbour.

“I want to see the best in science and technology labs and workshops, superb sports facilities, adaptable classrooms that can continue to accommodate technological innovations. I want the arts to be able to flourish in the best, most modern facilities.”

He added: “The new facilities can and should act as a catalyst for other investments, whether extended sports facilities or other community uses. When we have the opportunity to invest in this way, we have to make sure that we squeeze every possible drop of public benefit out of the investment.

“This should be seen as an opportunity for members of the community to come forward and become involved.”

Elaine Woodburn, Copeland Council leader, said: “I am delighted we are a partner in and contributor to this important project. It’s great news that it is being looked at in detail, as all options need to be considered. It could be a transformative move for education in Whitehaven, and for community sports provision. There is a long way to go but we look forward to supporting the study and seeing its findings.”

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