Chichester Free School plans are unveiled

Deputy principal Sian Williams, architect Peter Gilbertson, planning consultant Neil Wells and project manager Meghna Vajani at the public exhibition on the new Free School site
Deputy principal Sian Williams, architect Peter Gilbertson, planning consultant Neil Wells and project manager Meghna Vajani at the public exhibition on the new Free School site
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BUILDING work on Chichester’s newest school could start within a matter of months.

Chichester Free School showed off its plans today (September 30) for the derelict Carmelite Convent, just off Hunston Road.

Artist's impression of the converted convent which will be the home of the Chichester Free School. Picture contributed by Chichester Free School

Artist's impression of the converted convent which will be the home of the Chichester Free School. Picture contributed by Chichester Free School

“We’re delighted and excited, because we get not only a beautiful building, but it’s also fit for purpose, said deputy principal Sian Williams.

The school opened in its temporary base at the Vinnetrow Business Park in September, 2013, and hopes to move into its permanent home in September, 2017. The plans revealed a lot of the original convent structure will be retained for offices.

An eastern extension will be built for primary-school pupils and a western extension will be for the older students, who will go up to sixth-form.

By September, 2019, the school is estimated to have more than 1,200 pupils.

“The challenge has been for us to design something that sits comfortably in the landscape,” said architect Peter Gilbertson.

The former convent was damaged after a fire in 2009 and has remained empty since.

Three entrances would be built onto Hunston Road and there are plans for a pedestrian crossing. A bridleway from the newly-built A27 footbridge would mean some children did not need to go near the road, according to the deputy principal.

Planning consultant Neil Wells, of Cushman and Wakefield, said a plan is set to go into Chichester District Council this month, with the school hoping to start building work early next year.

Project manager Meghna Vajani, of Turner and Townsend, said the school had looked to see how much of the original building could be retained.

“We’ve done surveys of the site to see how much of it is good-quality building. At those times the quality of buildings was quite good,” she said.

The cost of the project is confidential currently, with funding coming from the government’s education funding agency. The exhibition continues tomorrow (October 1) in the Chichester Cathedral Cloisters.

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