THE building of a long-awaited £40m plus campus and sports centre will now not begin this year, civic bosses have admitted.
A legal dispute concerning the proposed location of Consett Academy will not be resolved until Christmas at the earliest, Durham County Council confirmed yesterday.
So building work cannot begin until January next year at best, assuming the issue is resolved in the county council’s favour. The authority had previously said they hoped to have a new £26m campus and £16m sports centre at Belle Vue, Consett, built by 2014. A sports centre is planned next door.
Yesterday Durham County Council’s Highways Committee members supported a recommendation that, the authority said, “offers the best way forward in bringing the complex legal debate over the future location of Consett Academy to a timely conclusion”.
Following a High Court judgement in July, members were requested to ask the independent inspector responsible for the original investigation to study the court’s findings.
More specifically it will to look at evidence which has come to light during the legal process regarding the historic use of the land.
Colette Longbottom, head of legal and democratic services at Durham County Council, said: “Today members have agreed an approach which is not only the most appropriate way to progress but the one which will see this matter resolved in the shortest possible timescale for pupils and parents.
“This is a very detailed and complex case which has led to delays over the start of work on the new academy and leisure facilities for the people of Consett.
“I very much hope the decision by members this morning will now see a resolution to this issue around Christmas time.”
Despite uncertainty over the site of the campus following the legal challenge by the Consett Green Spaces Group, the academy was established on split school sites in January this year following the merger of schools in Blackfyne and Moorside. Many parents are furious that their children will this term have to face a walk of almost three miles to the furthest site. They say the original schools should have been left alone until the future of the new academy campus was assured.
Paul and Lisa Raisbeck live in Woodlands Road, Shotley Bridge, less than half a mile from Blackfyne. Yet their son Jamie, 11, is due to begin attending the campus at Moorside, almost three miles away, this term.
Mr Raisbeck said: “To expect children of 11 to have to walk almost three miles, across roads and along unlit paths, beggars belief. It is the decision of someone living in ivory towers.”