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County council gives green light to town's post-16 project

THE DECISION to bring an ultra-modern, purpose built post-16 education centre under the Government's Private Finance Initiative was given the green light by county councillors on Wednesday.

THE DECISION to bring an ultra-modern, purpose built post-16 education centre under the Government's Private Finance Initiative was given the green light by county councillors on Wednesday.

And after a long round of negotiations, the new building is going to be sited at Retford Oaks High School at Ordsall, not a refurbishment of the former King Edward VI School site on London Road.

Officials have said the new centre, a 60 million investment in Retford, will be opened at the same time as the two new secondary schools coming to the town in 2006.

A brand new state-of-the-art leisure centre will also be built alongside the post-16 centre as a part of the multi-million pound development of the site.

"The development of brand-new post-16 facilities for Retford is brilliant for the town," said Coun Mick Storey – cabinet member for education.

"There will now be proper state-of-the art post-16 facilities in Retford and it will be a nice place in which to work. It will also help encourage people to study there," he added.

But the King Edward VI site had always been the preferred option of county council chiefs.

In the agenda for the cabinet meeting, during which the decision was made to build at Retford Oaks High School, it was stated: "Previous consultation with the local community on the PFI scheme showed there was considerable feeling in the area about the retention of the King Edward VI building."

But questions arose over who owned the old school, with a misplaced set of title deeds throwing a spanner in the works.

The county council doesn't actually own the King Edward site which is looked after by a board of trustees. This prompted the council to seek outline planning permission for the Ordsall site as a back-up alternative.

And Coun Storey said: "It is not the plan we had intended from the start but we didn't want to be in a position where the whole project was jeopardised."

"I know this decision is going to upset a few people at the King Edward site but I am reasonably optimistic that the King Edward site will be developed, with the existing front maintained," added Coun Storey, one of the trustees of the site.

The old King Edward VI school was originally a boys' grammar school, but doubts had been expressed as to just how much it would cost to develop, whereas the cost was quite clear with the Ordsall site because builders would be starting from scratch.

"Using the Retford Oaks site means we will have more money to spend on front-line teaching, more books and computers for the students. I think this is the best site overall," added Coun Storey.

Like Retford's brand-new schools, the post-16 centre will boast the latest in modern facilities, catering for around 400 students.

A planned open central area will provide the centrepiece for the building, with areas for students to congregate in.

A cutting-edge library will also be included, featuring the very latest in technology.

Wireless internet access and free-for-all access to innovations including interactive whiteboards and laptop computers are planned alongside a cyber-cafe.

 
 
 

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