Sports facility and housing among options for former Dewsbury school site

Kirklees Council is looking at possible new uses for the site of a Dewsbury high school shut down a decade ago.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 7:00 am
The former Birkdale High School, Wheelwright Drive, Dewsbury

Birkdale High School, on Wheelwright Drive, closed in 2011 when the school merged with neighbouring Westborough High School.

The site has been left chained up and secure and Kirklees Council appears certain it will no longer be needed for educational purposes.

The older part of the school building was Wheelwright Grammar School for Girls and there are extensive grounds.

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The council has had to wait a specific length of time before it can seek permission from the Government to find a new use for the site.

Coun Peter McBride, cabinet member for regeneration at Kirklees Council, said: “The buildings and land that make up the former Birkdale High School are still subject to the regulations set by the Department of Education, meaning it can’t be repurposed or sold for non-educational use without formal approval from the Secretary of State for Education.

“As the school closure is approaching the minimum requirement, Kirklees Council’s legal team are currently reviewing the regulations around the site’s release, with colleagues from other services considering options on how it could be used to support the council’s objectives in the future.

“In the meantime, basic maintenance and security for the site are being provided by the council’s corporate landlord service with a decision on its future to be considered by council leaders shortly.”

At this stage local councillors haven’t been involved in discussions over the site’s future, much of which is protected as urban green space.

Deputy council leader Coun Cathy Scott (Lab, Dewsbury East) said she would like to see the site retained for sports use while Coun Aleks Lukic (Dewsbury Borough Independent, Dewsbury East) and Coun Mumtaz Hussain (Lab, Dewsbury West) suggested a residential conversion for the main building.

Coun Lukic said: “In my view the original school building is a heritage asset which should be preserved, and most of the playing fields are protected as urban green space.

“The most feasible way to bring the building back into use would probably be a residential conversion, as has already been approved for the neighbouring Batley School of Art site.

"The council should try to secure a significant proportion of affordable housing and improvements to the open areas as part of any proposal.

“I would also like to see opportunities provided for local young people to learn trades during any redevelopment of the site.”

Coun Hussain said residential use should be looked at but added: “Green space is important too.”