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School finally on the move; Limbo over as plans are settled.

PLANS to relocate and rebuild a popular Northumberland school - which were thrown into limbo by the recession - have finally been settled.

Construction work is due to start in November on a replacement for Blyth''s 280-pupil Morpeth Road First School, on the town''s former Bates Colliery site about half a mile away.

It is hoped that the new 420-pupil primary school will open its doors early in 2011, as part of a multi-million pound switch to two-tier education in Blyth. The go-ahead for the new school ends months of uncertainty over whether Morpeth Road First would be relocated or remain on its existing Disraeli Street site.

Eight months ago parents, staff and governors called for it to stay where it is after the proposed rebuilding plan was thrown into doubt by the slump in the housing market.

The school is to be rebuilt as part of the redevelopment of the former pit site, where a major regeneration scheme involving 327 new homes is planned.

The deal was thrown into doubt after the building slump forced joint developers Banks Developments and UK Coal to reconsider their housing plans at Bates Colliery.

Northumberland County Council set a deadline of April this year for acquiring the site for the new school, otherwise the plan would be abandoned and a new primary built on the Morpeth First site. Yesterday headteacher Mike Bell said the land had now been acquired on work started on reclaiming the Bates site - meaning the school would definitely be on the move.

He said: "We have changed our thinking about the move now, because of what the new site offers in terms of playing fields and having seen some of the other new builds in Blyth. We believe this is what our kids need and it is going to be a fantastic facility. "We have to bite the bullet and accept that we will be moving slightly away from our current site.

"But we are hoping that when people see what they are getting at Bates Colliery they will move with us."

A county council spokeswoman said remediation work was needed at the Bates site before the new school could be built.

She said: "It is expected that building work will be commencing in November, for completion in early 2011."


CHANGED THINKING Mike Bell, headteacher of Morpeth Road County First School.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 22, 2009
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