Former Co-op store in Ipswich town centre to become primary school
The former Co-op department store in Ipswich’s Carr Street is to become a new primary school which should open in September 2019.
The news comes months after a previous bid to turn the building into a school was turned down after failing to win financial backing from the government.
Now a multi-party agreement has been reached between the East of England Co-op, Ipswich Council, Suffolk County Council, the Active Learning Trust (ALT), and the government’s Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to develop the new school.
The Borough plans to buy part (1.48 acres) of the former Co-op and hand over most of it to the ESFA. The council will retain part of the site and use most of this as a public car park. Income from the car park will cover the purchase cost.
The County Council has long sought to secure a town centre site for a new school as growing demand for primary school places is overtaking spaces available at existing schools. It will be making a contribution to enable the project to go ahead.
The new primary will be a Free School run by the ALT which already operates Chantry Academy and Gusford, Sidegate and Hillside primary schools in the town.
County council leader Colin Noble said: “This is great news for Ipswich and demonstrates our commitment to addressing the educational needs in our county town to ensure there is an appropriate level of provision for the future growth of the town. This is a good example of the public authorities working together to get things moving in the right direction.”
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Ipswich council leader David Ellesmere said: “This was a very complex project to pull off but I am glad the Borough Council has been able to help make it happen. This shows what we can achieve by working together to provide a much needed new primary school for Ipswich.”
Gary Peile, Chief Executive of Active Learning Trust said: “On behalf of the Active Learning Trust, I want to thank both Ipswich Borough Council and Suffolk County Council for their tremendous support in moving this project on.
“We were delighted to be approved as a sponsor for a new school to meet the needs of pupils and parents and this very important step means we come closer to meeting that need. We look forward with working with all partners in central and local government to provide a really excellent resource.”
Nick Denny, Joint Chief Executive at the East of England Co-op, said: “We’re delighted that a decision could soon be made on the future of our former department store.
“We’ve been working very closely with the Borough Council, Suffolk County Council and the Government over many months to bring these plans to fruition. If the proposals are realised, it will kick start the regeneration of the Eastgate Quarter and revitalise this area of the town centre.
“As a locally based regional business we are delighted to be part of a collaborative approach that will hopefully see a much needed facility for young people in the town.”
New Ipswich MP Sandy Martin also welcomed the purchase, saying: “We should all be delighted to see this much-needed new school taking a major step forward.
“It is no secret that I do not support the concept of Free Schools, but as that is the only feasible way of securing the additional primary school places our children desperately need at this time, I will be fully behind this project.”
Noble misses school launch as Sandy Martin “photo-bombs” event
Suffolk County Council leader Colin Noble had been due to join David Ellesmere at the announcement of the new school in Carr Street – but stayed away after hearing new Labour MP Sandy Martin would be there.
He said: “This was a scheme that was put together by the county and borough councils with a lot of help from the previous MP Ben Gummer, I did not see why Sandy Martin should photo-bomb the event. He had done nothing to get to get to this stage.”
The planning for the announcement was made last week, before the general election, and listed the “Ipswich MP” as one of those who would be at the event.
Mr Martin was invited on Sunday by Ipswich council Labour leader David Ellesmere.
Mr Noble said he would be meeting with Mr Martin, who has been opposition leader at the county, in the future to discuss developments in Ipswich, especially the Upper Orwell Crossing.