Suffolk County Council agrees to re-organise secondary education, leading to the closure of Halesworth Middle School in July 2012.
A feasibility study, based on wide-ranging research, concludes that there is great potential for the development of the school site to the benefit of local people, including:
- Educational opportunities for young people and adults
- Sport and leisure activities
- Health and community provision
- Linking education, sport and health with business and commercial activity
The report says that such a multi-sided project requires a clear management and governance structure, and the building of partnerships.
Location of the site is key since it:
- Includes the state-of-the-art North Suffolk Skills Academy, providing vocational training for 16–19 year-olds
- Adjoins the Health Village which is looking to expand services
- Adjoins the existing Halesworth Playing Fields facilities at Dairy Hill
Volunteers set up the Halesworth Campus Action Group. This includes stakeholders from Suffolk County, District and Local Councils, the health service, Halesworth Playing Fields and others.
Halesworth Campus Limited, a not-for-profit charity, is formed. The voluntary Board of Trustees includes Councillor Tony Goldson, Dr Annette Abbott, partner at Cutler’s Hill Surgery, and Erik Wilcock, former teacher and education adviser. (Details of current trustees can be found on the ‘about us’ page.)
Suffolk County Council agrees that the project has great potential for success, and transfers freehold of the grass pitches to Halesworth Campus.
Halesworth Playing Fields plans to sell the existing playing fields at Dairy Hill and to put the proceeds into the Campus project. This proposal is massively endorsed by Halesworth residents in a referendum organised independently by Suffolk ACRE (now incorporated into Community Action Suffolk). (The Dairy Hill site is already allocated for housing development under Waveney District Council’s Local Development Framework).
Waveney District Council transfers £60,000 already earmarked for sports development in Halesworth, and Suffolk CC grants £57,000 for project development costs.
Surveyors report that the old school building is not suitable for renovation – it is preferable to demolish the structure and build new facilities from scratch. The school playing fields also do not meet Football Association standard.
Trustees win a grant of £50,000 from Sport England towards the costs of drainage to create first-class pitches on the Campus (though, in the end, this grant offer is not taken up). Various professionals and businesses give their time and services for free or at reduced price to develop partnerships, negotiate contracts, oversee works and move the project forward.
A detailed survey of people in Halesworth and the surrounding area begins to find out what sports and physical activities they are interested in pursuing.
2,202 people respond to the survey; trustees review and publicise the results. Negotiations for the sale of land and new building development reach the final stages. Demolition and drainage are complete. Southwold Rugby Club are using the Campus fields for their weekly training sessions. Transfer of the freehold of the site of the former school buildings from the County Council to Halesworth Campus Ltd is completed.