Willmott Dixon to build £57m school for West Sussex County Council

CGI of The Bedelands Academy.

A new £57m secondary school is being built in Burgess Hill to provide education for 900 pupils.

Willmott Dixon has secured its second Passivhaus project in 2023 to build the secondary school for West Sussex County Council following its appointment last month by University of Exeter for the Multi-Faith Centre.

Construction of The Bedelands Academy, which will provide secondary places for families living in the nearby new Brookleigh development and wider Burgess Hill area, will start later this year. The school will also house a 16-place Special Support Centre for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, as well as high quality sports facilities that will be available for community use.

Nigel Jupp, cabinet member for learning and skills, said: “Willmott Dixon has extensive experience of building high-quality schools and their appointment marks a second major milestone in as many months, after planning permission was awarded in December last year.

“Helping children and young people to fulfil their potential and tackling climate change are two of the council’s big priorities in Our Council Plan. In creating this innovative new school, we are delivering on those priorities by creating the most environmentally friendly school possible where children will flourish.”

West Sussex County Council has committed nearly £40m of funding to design and create the new school. It is the council’s single largest school investment in the last decade. Around £18m is being provided by developer contributions.

The school, which is expected to open to pupils in September 2025, is designed to be net carbon zero in operation, with the aim of creating the first West Sussex school to achieve Passivhaus accreditation.

As well as The Bedelands Academy and Multi-Faith Centre, Willmott Dixon’s other Passivhaus projects include Spelthorne Leisure Centre for Spelbourne Borough Council, student accommodation at St Peter’s College at the University of Oxford, Hackbridge Primary School and Harris Academy, both in Sutton, and the George Davies Centre for University of Leicester.

Richard Poulter, managing director of Willmott Dixon in the south, said: “Carbon reduction is hugely important to our business, with the secondary element of The Bedelands Academy being the third Passivhaus school we will deliver in the south of England.

“The Passivhaus accreditation mirrors the commitments we have set out in our Now or Never strategy, to be zero-carbon in our own operations without offsetting by 2030.”

The council’s commitment to reducing carbon emissions is built into the designs of the school to ensure it is highly energy-efficient; generates its own energy on site without using any fossil fuels, producing an estimated 296,000 kWh of energy a year from around 1,000 solar photovoltaic panels. The plans also include retaining existing areas of biodiversity within the site including the mature oak trees that are home to rare bats, and the hedgerows that provide a habitat for dormice.

The secondary school is part of an “all-through” primary and secondary school run by the University of Brighton Academies Trust. The primary is being developed and funded separately by Homes England, the Brookleigh master developers, on a nearby site. Homes England is contributing £18m and the land for the secondary school.

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