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Local planners told to 'free space for free schools'

11 October 2012

The Government is increasingly exercising its powers under the Academies Act 2010 to coerce local authorities and planning departments to make sites available for free schools.

A number of free schools that were due to open have either struggled to secure suitable or permanent sites or for those that have, a dispute has arisen with the local authorities over planning. Where a local authority refuses to transfer a vacant school site (usually pursuant to a 125 year lease at peppercorn rent), the Government can use its statutory powers to “scheme” land in its own ownership. The Government can also exert pressure by ensuring planning authorities view applications by free schools more positively, with the communities and local government minister being able to override their decisions.

Increased pressure will ensure that more sites are made available, leading to more free schools being opened. The New School’s Network suggestion that the system through which sites are identified and bought is decentralised will also help achieve this.

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