Free school to go ahead in Preston site

Universal House on London Road in Preston

Universal House on London Road in Preston

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PLANS to convert a former office block into a permanent home for Preston’s first free school are set to go ahead.

The controversial application to use Universal House in London Road for the Eden Boys’ School had been re-lodged after it was refused by Preston Council chiefs.

Now officers have granted prior approval for the conversion of the building, submitted on behalf of the Tauheedul Education Trust.

The proposal had been thrown out over highways concerns, but council bosses now say that, subject to conditions, the impact of the proposal “would not be severe”.

Hamid Patel, Chief executive of the Tauheedul Education Trust, said he was “delighted” at the news, and said: “We are looking forward to delivering a school that will serve all sections of the Preston community.”

He said the school would be a faith school, but would be open to boys of all faiths and none. Mr Patel said the numbers of pupils would be limited “to ensure no school is adversely affected” by the Eden School’s opening.

But union bosses have raised concerns over a free school opening in the city.

Simon Jones, Lancashire’s executive member for the National Union of Teachers, said the union’s dealings with the trust had been “positive”, but said: “We still have very serious general concerns about free schools opening at all, and there is still the concern about the impact on other schools.”

A full planning application to build a sports hall, curtain walling and a new main entrance for the building is yet to be determined by Preston Council. The Eden Boys’ School is set to open in September in a building in Guildhall Street, Preston, in the meantime.