Scaled down plan for Consett academy approved

Scaled down plans for a new academy in County Durham are to go ahead despite the withdrawal of its main sponsor.

Durham University said that education system changes had "reduced its ability to provide the focused energy and resources" for the academy in Consett.

The county council said it had been working hard to find a solution, and plans for work to start next year.

The Belle Vue site will replace Moorside Community Technology College and Consett Community Sports College.

The project, which had faced opposition from some residents, had been set to cost £31.7m, but government spending cuts reduced this figure to £20.7m.

Durham County Council said it regretted the decision by Durham University to pull out of the scheme.

A university spokesman said: "After much consideration Durham University regretfully confirms it has decided to withdraw as lead sponsor for the Consett Academy.

"There have been major changes across higher education and the Academies Programme since the university first agreed to become the lead sponsor.

"The university feels these changes have reduced its ability to provide the focused energy and resources necessary to lead the development and delivery of secondary education academies.

"We will work hard to make sure that transition to a new sponsor takes place as quickly and smoothly as possible."

A Durham County Council spokesman said: "Cabinet will be asked to plug the funding shortfall for the preferred option with a sum of £3.37m and sanction a contingency of a further £2m to cover any unexpected issues which arise during the project's development.

"Should cabinet choose to support this option, more detailed analysis and risk assessment would be carried out.

"Work on the Belle Vue site should begin mid 2012, with the new academy scheduled to open in spring 2014."

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