It is ‘full steam ahead’ on plans to complete Burgess Hill’s Woodlands Meed School by replacing prefabricated structures with a modern purpose built college, according to the county council.
Parents, governors and staff have spent the last few years campaigning for a permanent college to be built but the money to do so has not yet been made available.
An initial business case is being prepared to consider the range of options and level of funding required. If the project successfully makes its way on to the council’s capital programme a planning application for the works could be submitted next summer.
Richard Burrett, cabinet member for education and skills, said if ‘everything goes to plan’ the college site could be completed by September 2021.
He added: “We are committed to doing this. We have to get the funding in place and get it a place on the capital programme.
“As far as I’m concerned it’s full steam ahead and nothing has changed in the summer.”
Several speakers queried why the anticipated completion date had already appeared to have slipped from 2020 to 2021 at a Central and South Mid Sussex County Local Committee meeting on Tuesday night (October 30).
Mr Burrett said the project had to go through a defined legal process and ‘things have moved as quickly as they are able to move’.
He added: “We can’t go any quicker. If I could I would magic a building there tomorrow. I do not have the power to do that.”
Karen George, speaking for the Complete Woodlands Meed team, explained that a lot of families have been left in limbo and could not plan for their future.
She asked for a clearer timescale and clarity about what processes the project needs to navigate to secure the funding.
Marion Wilcock, chair of governors, added: “We have had our difficulties with West Sussex in the past but we are now working extremely well with the officers on the ground.
“We are very grateful to them for their help and support.”
She described how they were determined there should be no slippage from a 2021 opening date, as temporary permission for the huts which runs out in March 2019 is set to be extended for two years.
She said: “That is the line in the sand, that is the agreement, that nails the colours to the mast.”
Mr Burrett responded: “I think it’s been a really proactive relationship over the last few months and long may it continue.”
He added: “I can’t make promises and guarantees, but what I can guarantee is to push as hard as we can.”
Anne Jones (Con, Burgess Hill East) said: “It’s something we have got to get right and developed properly and a building to be proud of.”
Addressing parents and staff in the public gallery, committee chairman Pete Bradbury (Con, Cuckfield and Lucastes) said: “You do not need to do anything more to convince us of the nature of the situation and evoke more sympathy with us. I think you have already got that from members of this committee.”
While the committee has no executive powers to make decisions he felt it provided a forum for the public to share their views on Woodlands Meed.