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Boost for North Cestrian parents hoping to stop Loreto Prep being sold off to developers

A parent-led campaign to expand North Cestrian secondary school to the former Loreto Prep site has been given a major boost.

The Loreto Prep site on Dunham Road

A parent-led campaign to expand North Cestrian secondary school to the former Loreto Prep site has been given a major boost.

Since being unexpectedly closed in July 2023, Loreto Prep’s Dunham Road site has been marketed as a potential development opportunity.

Such a move would likely prove lucrative for the Loreto Sisters, the trustees of the site, who determined last year that the school - which had been run as an independent school since splitting from Loreto Grammar School in 1972 - was no longer financially viable.

However, neighbouring North Cestrian is hoping to secure the land in order to alleviate overcrowding at the school and provide up to 300 more secondary school places in the Altrincham area.

And now the school, backed by parents and local politicians, has succeeded in an application to list the site as Asset of Community Value.

The move, confirmed by Trafford Council on February 1st, is essentially a delaying tactic and prevents the site being quickly sold off for residential purposes.

It follows a petition started by North Cestrian parent Lisa Waterhouse, who has led a campaign with fellow parent Alex Macleod, and has now attracted over 1,300 signatures.

It is urging Trafford Council or the Department of Education to fund North Cestrian’s bid to buy the Loreto Prep site - which eventually could create up to 300 extra places for the school.

North Cestrian is currently heavily oversubscribedLoreto Th

“A bigger site would provide more secondary school places for local children and desperately needed improvements to facilities,” the petition reads.

“Last year North Cestrian received over 1500 applications for just 165 places, and each year 60 families do not get a local school and have to travel across Trafford to be educated.”

Lisa added to Altrincham Today: “North Cestrian is very landlocked, we’ve not got much space, with just a small playground and half an astro pitch. We’ve had to use a Portakabin for a new classroom, and lunch has to be run over two sittings.

“If the site turned into residential, North Cestrian would never ever get the chance to expand. It would be horrible if it happened.” 

Local politicians have been supporting the parents’ bid and meeting with North Cestrian staff, governors and Trafford Council.

Oliver Carroll, the Conservatives’ candidate for Altrincham and Sale West, urged the council to “pull their finger out”.

He said: "This brilliant news is testament to the hard work of Headmaster Lee Bergin, Chair of Governors Colin Bamford, as well as Lisa and Alex and all the parents of NCS who I have been proud to have been supporting since I was selected last year. 

“Trafford Council need to listen to us, pull their finger out, and secure this expansion for the future."

Labour’s candidate for Altrincham and Sale West, Ben Hartley, said the site represented a “realistic option to create extra secondary school places quickly and at lower cost”.

He said: “The former Loreto Prep site represents a unique opportunity to acquire a generous plot in the centre of Altrincham with a high school next door that wants to expand and existing school buildings that can be used.  

Ben Hartley, Labour’s candidate for Altrincham and Sale West

“The council has searched in the Altrincham and Sale area for a site for a new school but this has proved impossible. This represents a realistic option to create extra secondary school places quickly and at lower cost.

“There is still a long way to go before we can say for certain that extra school places will be available there. But securing the site as an Asset of Community Value is a vital first step to ensure this opportunity is not lost.”

A spokesperson for Trafford Council said: “Trafford Council has been working extremely hard to address the huge demand for school places within the borough.

“We have also been lobbying the government and engaging with the Department for Education regarding the shortfall of school places in Altrincham and Sale. 

“We explained the current situation where currently we have 19 secondary schools, seven of those being selective and we are the admission authority for only one of those schools. We asked the government to work with our grammar schools to review their admissions criteria so that Trafford residents are given priority over those living outside of the borough.

“With regards to the sale of Loreto Prep and the opportunities this may present for the expansion of North Cestrian, we have been actively working to explore all options for the benefit of children and families in Trafford "