New £31m school for Midhurst takes shape

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The two-year, £31m project to create a state-of-the-art new school for 1,500 pupils in Midhurst is finally taking shape.

It has begun with the building of the promised new entrance to the Midhurst Rother College off the A272 beside Ognells almshouses.

West Sussex County Council’s project manager Simon Elliott who has the task of overseeing the work, told the Observer: “One of the things we said to the contractors was before they started the main work they had to construct this road.

“There will be a lot of heavy construction traffic and Lamberts Lane is not up to that degree of movement – it is too narrow – so the first thing that has happened is the building of this new access road.”

The road has been given a temporary surface to cope with the construction traffic, and one of the last things contractors will do before the new school opens is to replace the surface with the permanent tarmac finish.

The building of the road has resulted in huge mounds of earth, which said Mr Eliott would from this week, start to be moved to the agricultural land at the back of the school site behind the farm house.

Most of this would gradually be used around the site during the next 18 months.

“We have to strip off the land now and get to the sub soil, so we can begin work on the buildings.”

Last week contractor Balfour Beatty’s workmen were stripping out the asbestos from the old River Site building and on Monday they began demolition of the buildings.

“This will take a good month,” said Mr Elliott, “because they have to recycle as much of the material as they can. Some will go elsewhere on the Midhurst site and some will go off site, but what we are trying to do is to keep vehicle trips on and off the site to a minimum.”

He hopes that in March contractors will begin work on the foundations of the new school.

“This will carry on until Easter time,” he said, “and then we will start to see things coming out of the ground.”

A turf-cutting ceremony is planned in March to mark the symbolic beginning of the new school taking shape.

“I am not really sure what form it will take,” said Mr Elliott, “but on another site we planted a time capsule.”

Although it is still early days, Mr Elliott said the project was on target to finish in the summer holidays of 2012 so that equipment could be installed ready for the start of the new term in September.