A call to consider saving a doomed £24million school site from years of debt – by demolishing a community centre and switching its services - has not gone down well with Gazette readers.
South Shields businessman Colin Campbell believes flattening Chuter Ede Community Association could solve the problem of what to do with South Shields School, which is due to close next year.
Under his plan, the community centre – a former school in Galsworthy Road, Biddick Hall – would be flattened and its considerable land assets freed for revenue-raising housing.
At the same time, he says, its services would be moved to the South Shields School site – around a mile away in Nevinson Avenue, Whiteleas, which could then operate as a community centre.
Mr Campbell says this would satisfy the terms of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) funding deal under which the school opened in September 2011.
The contract states the under-performing school, which councillors have voted to close in 2020, can only be used for educational purposes, limiting future operational opportunities – and costing the council millions of pounds in repayments.
South Tyneside Council is obliged to pay towards the upkeep and maintenance of the school, at an estimated cost of about £400,000 a year, until 2036.
The housing landlord said: “This is the perfect solution. Chuter Ede needs some repairs and an upgrade – closing it and moving the work it does to the school is a good idea.”
South Tyneside Council say there are currently ‘No plans for future use of the site’ because that would have been ‘inappropriate during the consultation process.’
Readers were quick to take to our Facebook page with their views.
Neil Downey wrote: “The sale of the land from Chuter Eded would help pay towards the council’s costs for the school and help them save money by maintaining the the site.
“I cant see the land being worth enough to cover the councils cost of 400k p/a for the next 17 years, however it is a short term solution.”
Rob Lawson asked: “Isn’t there a covenant or green belt protection on the Chuter Ede site?”
Wendy Ryder suggested: “Turn it into a SEN school. Most specialist provision in South Shields is full or over subscribed.”
Helen George added: “The money from a land sale is not going to last for the years left to run on the PFI.”
Norm Salkeld wrote: “You’d be mad to think houses weren’t going on both sites in time.”