THE Whitehaven Academy will NOT be part of a new £33 million education campus because its bosses "explicitly chose" to withdraw from the scheme, it has been claimed.

Copeland's mayor Mike Starkie has spoken out after receiving letters from angry parents, questioning the Academy's omission from the state-of-the-art project.

Mr Starkie says claims by Bright Tribe Trust, which runs the Academy, that it had been "excluded" from the scheme "couldn't be further from the truth". He said that, despite initial amalgamation talks involving St Benedict's, Mayfield and the then Whitehaven School, it quickly became clear that Whitehaven School was "not interested in a single site campus" and backed out.

When the school became an academy in January 2014, Bright Tribe chose to pursue a separate funding bid for its own new-build - which has so far been unsuccessful. The partners therefore continued with a two-school plan involving only St Benedict's and Mayfield, added Mr Starkie, which was confirmed three weeks ago when the final piece in the £33m funding pot was secured.

David Southward, Cumbria county councillor, has backed Mr Starkie's version of events. He said: "It was explicitly Bright Tribe's choice, early on, to exclude themselves as they were not confident that the idea of a single development for three schools was the right way to go."

But Bright Tribe maintains that the Academy's "apparent exclusion from the campus plans came as a surprise" and added its "disappointment that it had not been included in the plans" given the urgent need for improvements.

A Bright Tribe spokesperson responded: "We have made it clear at every stage that we are fully engaged and committed to this project for the benefit of our students and the Whitehaven community. We are also of the view that the £33m funding available was significant enough to ensure all parties in these discussions could benefit fairly from this community fund.”

However, the Trust declined to answer further questions from The Whitehaven News about its involvement in the scheme while the funding package for St Benedict's/Mayfield was being agreed.

Coun Southward said that although the Academy is not part of the £33m new-build one-site scheme, it remains part of "a wider educational concept of the campus that could involve joint working or shared resources".

Mr Starkie added: "It is important to understand that this project involves the building of new facilities for St Benedict's and Mayfield, and that the Whitehaven Campus offers the area more than just this. The facilities created, including those for sporting activities will provide resources to benefit students from more than just those two schools and the wider population.

“One of the aims of the campus project is to improve opportunities and facilities for the people of Copeland. It is also to raise aspirations and support greater integration between the schools and businesses in the area.

“I can understand parents’ concerns about Whitehaven Academy’s buildings and I would welcome the opportunity to visit the school to meet the staff and students.”

It is planned that Mayfield and St Benedict's will be built on the playing field behind the existing St Benedict's School. The site will feature teaching facilities for both schools with shared facilities. The campus entrance will be via Moresby Road. 

The proposal also includes new community sports provision on the campus and new and refurbished facilities at Whitehaven Sports Centre. A detailed planning phase can now take place, including consultation starting in September. Building work on the campus could start next summer, with it opening in 2018. Both existing schools are expected to be demolished once the new-build has been completed.

Cash will come from the following: Nuclear partners £17.5million, Copeland Community Fund £5million, Britain’s Energy Coast £7.5million and Cumbria County Council £2.8million.