Building work on new schools to start in spring

BUILDING work on Lyde Green’s new secondary and primary schools will start in March, says South Gloucestershire Council.

New contracts for the much-delayed £41 million building project will be announced in February, leaving two-and-a-half years to get the schools ready to open in September 2026.

In the meantime the council has also announced improvements to buses taking secondary school pupils from the area to Winterbourne Academy.

The new schools, which will share a site at the eastern end of Honeysuckle Road, were originally due to open in September 2022 but have been hit by a series of delays.

The new 900-place Lyde Green Secondary School and a 420-place primary school next door, to be run as a twin school to the existing Lyde Green Primary School in Willowherb Road, were approved by the Department for Education in 2021 after a bidding process which saw them compete for funding with other school projects around the country, losing out on a previous occasion.

An update on the project was given to the council’s ruling cabinet on December 11.

Co-leader Ian Boulton said: “Lyde Green remains a missing link, which affects not only the immediate vicinity – the ripples affect the whole authority.

“After a number of false starts by the previous administration, we had to effectively take a standing start to deliver these schools in Lyde Green.”

The council has now taken legal ownership of the land for the schools and is putting up new fencing on the site.

Calls for a new school to serve the area were first made around the turn of the millennium, and many families have moved into Lyde Green expecting schools to be ready in time for their children to attend, only to have to find both secondary and in some cases primary school places elsewhere, as the estate’s first primary school is heavily oversubscribed.

As a result many children have to travel by bus or car to school, particularly secondary school pupils, with recent cuts to bus services leaving some facing early starts and overcrowded services.

Conservative Frenchay & Downend ward councillor Liz Brennan said: “There is a lack of school buses in South Gloucestershire and this is impacting parents and carers in their school choices. For example, there is still no guarantee for long-term plans for the Winterbourne Academy school buses.”

Liberal Democrat cabinet member for education Chris Willmore said: “Long-term, the only solution to some of the issues is getting the Lyde Green schools open as quickly as humanly possible.

“The fact is we just don’t have enough secondary places, so people are having to make journeys they would otherwise not want to make.

“We’ve inherited a position where parents have voted with their feet historically, in relation to which schools they go to. And therefore we’ve picked up a historic nightmare. We’ve been doing our best to rescue school transport and buses. For example from January we’re changing the timetables for the Winterbourne buses, so that they will be better for parents.”

A council spokesperson confirmed that the controversial ‘stacking’ of services, which meant children catching the 459 service from Lyde Green, via Emersons Green had to be at their bus stop as early as 6.50am, is being reversed.

The 459 will now revert to last year’s timetable, arriving at school at 8.15am rather than 7.35am, and leaving at 2.50pm.

The latest changes are possible because the 459 will no longer have to share a bus and driver with the 460 from Coalpit Heath, which is being withdrawn and replaced with a scheduled bus service, the Y6, which is being diverted to cover its route at school run times.

Meeting report by Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service