More than five sites earmarked for 'new' Sevenoaks grammar school
MORE than five sites in the Sevenoaks area have been earmarked as possible bases for a "new" grammar school, the Chronicle can reveal.
Council bosses are now forging ahead with a plan to build a selective school in town after a momentous decision to approve the scheme last Thursday.
More than 2,600 supporters of the project had signed an online petition, which triggered the debate at Kent County Council's Maidstone headquarters.
Due to the law forbidding the creation of a new grammar, the facility will comprise two satellites of existing boys' and girls' grammar schools in west Kent.
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The Sevenoaks site would be the first "new" grammar school in Kent in 50 years.
There would be two separate schools on the same site, one male and one female, each connected to a grammar school in Tunbridge Wells or Tonbridge.
Parent campaigners were keen to see the new facility set up on the former Wildernesse School site in Seal Hollow Road, but county councillors have insisted they are keeping their options open.
Cabinet member for education Mike Whiting said: "We have got to look at and research a number of sites to see which is the most suitable and the most affordable. We have various land holdings.
"We may have a piece of land that's suitable or we may have to buy a piece of land and the costs would go up. Or we may have something to refurbish.
"There's a whole range of options and we have to look at each of them."
At the debate last week, Mr Whiting said the school buildings would cost between £13 million and £15 million, excluding the price of any land acquisition.
Cabinet member for business strategy Roger Gough confirmed the council was looking at more than five sites, although it is keeping their locations under wraps.
He said: "I think we would be open to looking at all sorts of possibilities. We have a number of sites in Sevenoaks and we are definitely not ruling anything out."
The county council's stance has been welcomed by parents who want a Christian secondary built on the land.
Bill Lattimer, the chairman of Churches Together in Sevenoaks and District, is spearheading the movement.
He said: "I think it is far from clear that Kent County Council want to build on the Wildernesse site, as they said they have other sites in mind."
The Wildernesse site is on lease to the Knole Academy until August 2015, or longer if the school requires it.
Knole formed after the closure of the Wildernesse and Bradbourne schools, and all the pupils are now based at the former Bradbourne School site, further along the A25.
Campaigners are also anxious that progress be made in case the decision is reconsidered later on.
Sarah Shilling, the mum from Chipstead Park who started the movement with her husband Andrew, said: "The parents of Sevenoaks want this school, and we don't want to wait five years.
"There could be a change in government and we don't know when that could be."
But Mr Whiting said: "I know the petitioner – Mr Shilling – hoped we could bring it forward.
"The reports suggest we should look at 2015.
"Once we do our various options, if we need to bring if forward I see no reason why we shouldn't."
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