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Trafford Council is preparing a £9m bid to buy Loreto Prep - to enable North Cestrian expansion

The move would create up to 300 more school places in Altrincham.

Trafford Council is preparing a bid to buy the former Loreto Prep site in order to create up to 300 more secondary school places in Altrincham through the expansion of North Cestrian School.

We reported last month how a parent-led campaign had succeeded in an application to list the three-acre Dunham Road site as an Asset of Community Value.

The independent Loreto Prep had unexpectedly closed in July 2023, with its trustees, the Loreto Sisters, stating it was no longer financially viable.

A site disposal brief was then produced by Roger Hannah, the agents
acting on behalf of the Loreto Sisters, with some fearing they were looking to sell off the lucrative town-centre site for residential development.

However, in a decision this week, Trafford Council's Executive has agreed that the local authority will now bid to purchase the land for a sum to be funded by a capital grant from the Department for Education. The council estimates the whole project will cost £9m.

It says that the recent Education and Early Years Basic Need and High Needs Capital Report highlighted that there were "no secondary school vacancies" in Altrincham and that some children were being forced to travel to other areas to access a place.

It also stated that two feasibility studies had shown that North Cestrian could only be expanded were the neighbouring vacant site to be acquired.

The council has now also revealed that it wrote to the Loreto Sisters in February saying it would "strongly resist any planning application for residential redevelopment and that the valuation of the land should not be based on its anticipated value for residential use".

It added: "Planning permission may be needed for some of the improvement works but the factors which weigh against the redevelopment of the site for residential purposes would weigh positively in favour of development which facilitated the use of the site for continued education use."

North Cestrian School

Acquiring the school would support the expansion of North Cestrian by up to 60 places per year group, or 300 in total.

Although Trafford said the budget had yet to be fully costed by that the estimated £9m expenditure could be financed through existing and projected government funding for the expansion of school places.

It said that two years ago it had carried out "extensive" searches for alternative school sites in Altrincham and Sale, but that none were found to be suitable or available.

Cllr Karina Carter, Trafford’s Executive Member for children and young people said: “We are delighted to have reached this first milestone in our aim to acquire the former Loreto Prep School site for North Cestrian School.

“Our secondary schools in Trafford are some of the best in the country, and this means places are in high demand. The extra capacity that North Cestrian’s expansion would bring would be a real bonus for families in the Altrincham area.

“We explored the potential to enlarge North Cestrian in 2022, but concluded that the site was too small to enable meaningful expansion. The opportunity to add the former Loreto Prep site to North Cestrian’s estate would make all the difference, giving the school the space to add new classrooms and resolve larger space challenges such as for dining and sports facilities.

“The next step will be to formally submit a bid for the land, which will happen in the coming weeks.”

Michael Welton, Green Party councillor for Altrincham and Leader of the Green Party on Trafford Council, welcomed the move.

He said: "This is an unmissable opportunity to create much needed secondary school places for our local area. As ward councillors we've worked with the council and school on this.

"We will continue to work to ensure a successful expansion, that also takes account of the needs of nearby local residents."