Investment of £25million for new secondary school and community centre in Knowle West

The building of a new secondary school and community hub in Knowle West is a step closer – after plans were  passed by Bristol City Council’s cabinet on 5 March.

The proposed government-funded 900-place school will be run by Oasis Academy, with six forms of entry. It will be built on the site of the old Merrywood School in Daventry Road – and as part of the proposal The Park Centre will have a new community building next to the school.

The plans represent an investment of £25 million in the area – which includes £4.45 million to The Park for the new building.

Cllr Anna Keen, cabinet member for Education and Skills said: “…It’s a huge investment in Knowle West. It’s an area which will massively benefit from having a new school there and also from the community resource that this will bring.”

Bristol City Council currently leases the site to The Park Trust for a peppercorn rent of £1. The Education and Skills Funding Agency (EFSA) will pay the charity £4.45million for the land while offering a smaller site to build a new community hub.

On completion the council will take over the freehold of the new community building and lease it back to The Park for the same peppercorn rent of £1.

As part of the plan, the council will release the covenant on land off neighbouring Tavistock Road to allow it to be sold to build 12 affordable houses – with the money going to The Park.

The charity, which houses a number of small businesses, community groups and leisure facilities will benefit from a more sustainable building to replace the current outdated 1970s one.

Lack of community consultation

But there was some concern from members of the public about the lack of community consultation around the plans.

Michele Tedder said: “…There’s not been any comprehensive consultation or involvement across the South Bristol communities affected by these proposals that will make a significant impact on their lives.

“How can we ensure that the Knowle community and stakeholders and those affected in neighbouring Filwood ward and other South Bristol awards are involved, fully aware and consulted prior to any binding decisions?”

And Aileen McLoughlin said although she welcomed the commitment to a secondary school in South Bristol and applauded the work done in Knowle by the Park Trust – there had “not been any meaningful consultation” for the community to examine the detail.

She urged the council to refer the matter to a scrutiny committee and her concerns included making sure there was both community and council representation on The Park Board Trust.

But Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees said she should contact the scrutiny committee directly herself.

Deputy Mayor Cllr Asher Craig, cabinet member for Communities, Equalities and Public Health said the council would be engaging with The Park Trust to make sure there was “appropriate community representation on that board” and there would be “wider consultion across South Bristol, particularly the Filwood Ward.”

Knowle Lib Dem councillor Gary Hopkins said the development was very important for the area and welcomed the report.

He said although pupils in the area were outperforming up to the end of primary school: “…Our children in Knowle have been disadvantaged by not having a secondary school in Knowle for a number of years…”

He said there would also be a huge environmental advantage from children and parents not having to travel long distances.

In 2016 Bristol Grammar School applied to sponsor a 1,000 place non-selective secondary school in Knowle but the plans were rejected by the Department for Education.