Trust opens talks over takeover of school site

The trust behind Ormiston Sudbury Academy is in talks to take over the site of Uplands Middle School when it closes this summer.

Peter Murray, chairman of Ormiston Academies Trust, has made an initial inquiry to Suffolk County Council regarding the 16-acre site and building, with a view to using the playing fields for the nearby academy.

Uplands is due to close on July 19 as part of the council’s move to two-tier education.

“We were told the building is going to be demolished unless there is a serious viable interest, which would be a tragedy for Sudbury,” said Mr Murray, who added that he had been told the end of September was the deadline for proposals.

Mr Murray said he wanted to see if there was a possibility of the school buildings being used for voluntary organisations or charities in Sudbury.

“The academy would be interested in the playing fields and maybe two or three rooms at the school but it wouldn’t be enough on its own to encourage Suffolk County Council to say yes,” he said.

The trust is investigating taking on the lease for the whole building and letting it out to individual organisations and sharing costs.

“There are 250 voluntary organisations and groups in Sudbury and it would be great if they came forward,” he said. “It is a tall order as the current running cost is about £100,000 per year, so we would need quite a few organisations.”

Mr Murray said he would like to see part of the building used for educational purposes for children who have been excluded from school, adding that a shared-use scheme would enable groups to share back-office functions and systems.

John Sayers, a town and county councillor, said he had been in touch with groups, including The National Autistic Society, about the idea.

“This could be absolutely ideal for that purpose, particularly for organisations for the younger element of society,” he said.

“None of us want to see buildings demolished without really making an effort to find somebody to use it.”

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “We would consider any proposal which offers a viable and sustainable future for the site, especially if it meets identified community needs.

“It’s too early to say whether or not we will have to demolish the building. That decision would follow the assessment of any bids.”