Go-ahead for £28m free school in Leeds

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PLANNING chiefs have given the green light to a £28m free school in the south of Leeds which is expected to become the biggest in the country - and will help fill a massive gap in secondary school places.

The Ruth Gorse Academy opened in September on the Morley Academy site after Ministers approved the plans.

Rebekah Taylor, Principal for the Ruth Gorse Academy

Rebekah Taylor, Principal for the Ruth Gorse Academy

And after a Leeds City Council panel approved a new planning application tonight (Thursday), the school will move into a purpose built permanent home in Black Bull Street in 2016.

It will eventually have 1,580 pupils and 150 staff, and it is hoped the development could also drive the regeneration of the south of the city centre.

However despite general praise for the design and ambitions of the project, members of the City Plans Panel expressed concern about the amount of car parking on site and impact on city centre traffic.

Headteacher Rebekah Taylor assured the panel that the focus would be on hiring staff who live locally - and are likely to walk to work - as well as providing extensive bus services.

Coun Colin Campbell said: “We have to make it clear that we support the idea of the school but I have some major concerns about traffic and parking. The car park is not big enough.”

Coun Graham Latty said the design of the building was “absolutely first class and just what we wanted to see”.

But he added it was “unrealistic” to think there would not be car parking issues.

The new school building will sit on the former Yorkshire Chemicals site in a growing “educational cluster” on the emerging South Bank of the city, surrounded by the nearby Leeds City College Printworks Campus and Leeds College of Building.

Councillor Peter Gruen said efforts had been made for many years to bring a major new high school to the city centre in the catchment of inner city areas.

“It’s fantastic and totally transformative to have an educational village close to the city centre,” he said.

“In terms of opportunities for children from working class families, this will be a tremendous boost.”

The panel approved the overall plans, but asked for a further report on amendments to the design which take into account the extensive concerns about traffic and parking.

Coun Neil Walshaw said: “We need to get this right.

“We all have schools in our wards that can cause problems with traffic.

“I would hope that with the ethos of the school. it would have a substantial foot catchment.

“It’s not a primary school, it’s a secondary, so there will be a lot of access by public transport.

“We have to be clear in our highways strategy for this area.”

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