Contingency plans are in place to cope with demand for school places should the council be unable to deliver a new facility on Bury St Edmunds’ Moreton Hall estate.
Joy Stodart, Suffolk County Council’s project lead for the School Organisation Review (SOR), told people at a busy Moreton Hall Residents’ Association meeting on Monday St James’ Middle School had been chosen as ‘a fall back’ if the move from a three-tier to two-tier structure of education did not go ahead.
Houses being built in and around Bury have put pressure on school places, with the town’s upper schools already ‘close to capacity’ and on ‘very constrained sites’.
“We won’t have enough places as we are now if we add years’ seven and eight to them,” said Ms Stodart, highlighting the need for a new school.
The future of the Moreton Hall facility is dependant upon the outcome of a cabinet decision on SOR, due on June 10.
If reorganisation gets the green light, the plan is to open it in September 2016 with only Years 7, 8 and 9, with 120 pupils in each.
By 2019 the expectation is to offer 900 places to 11-16 year olds and by 2022 for it to be large enough to host its own sixth form, with 1,200 pupils, rising to 1,400 in 2026.
Sixth form education would be offered before 2022 by working in partnership with other schools.
Ms Stodart said £12million had been ring-fenced for the project and, if SOR did not get the go ahead, the new school - likely to consist of a campus design– would still open, but later, in 2018/19.
Its meeting rooms, sports hall and performing arts space are expected to be available for community use outside of school hours.
“There are still lots of things that are uncertain but we do have a plan and a way forward as soon as a decision is made,” said Ms Stodart.
“If the decision is not to go ahead and we can’t deliver that new school we do have contingency arrangements – our fall back would be utilising St James’ Middle School site for a short time.”
Residents raised concerns about the lack of infrastructure in place to deal with the anticipated school traffic, particularly at the Sainsbury’s roundabout, and the council’s lack of engagement with the Churchmanor Estates Company over its eastern relief road.
Will Tarbit said it was ‘outrageous’ the council still did not know how it was ‘going to get people to the school’ through an already congested estate.