AN UNUSED area of land could be transformed to create a new £17m school building in the centre of Southampton.

On Monday, Cabinet members at the city council will discuss in secret proposals from the Department for Education for the expansion of Hope Community School.

The press and public are excluded from attending the meeting.

If approved, the plans would see part of the currently unused area of council-owned land at the corner of Lime Street and Evans Street become the site of a two form entry Free School.

Hope Community School is currently a one form entry school operating opposite the site in what is described as an ‘inappropriate facility’.

The free school, not run by the local authority, currently accommodates year groups R through to 4, with one class per year.

But these plans are expected to double its size with the project estimated to cost £17m if the council agrees to sell off part of its land.

This has been met with mixed emotions from councillors, with some raising questions about demand and the affect on nearby schools.

Daily Echo: Southampton City councillor James Baillie, Conservative..

Cabinet member for Education, James Baillie said: “This project would result in millions of pounds of investment from the Department for Education into a brand new school building in the city centre, at a time when we are looking to build thousands of homes in the coming years.

“The children currently attending Hope Community School will also benefit from the improved learning facilities and this project also gives us the opportunity to work with them on a specialist SEND provision, providing excellent education and development opportunities for all pupils.

“I support the proposals to expand the existing local community school, giving the teachers and pupils the buildings and learning space they deserve.”

Free schools are funded by the government and are not run by local councils.

According to official documents, the new site could also include a Special Educational Needs (SEND) facility.

But Bargate councillor and Labour’s spokesperson for Children and Learning, Darren Paffey said: “We welcome the government investing in a new building and permanent home for Hope School. However, the Department for Education should not be imposing an unnecessary expansion here at the same time, when there are already more primary school places in the area than are needed.

“That surplus is forecast to continue, so any expansion will have a negative effect on existing local schools which are rated Good by Ofsted.” The council’s job is to work for the good of all local children, not just those in Tory-preferred ‘free schools’.

“Hope School does need a permanent site, but the administration must stop ignoring what will happen to other schools as a result of their decision.”

Royston Smith, MP for Southampton Itchen, added: “I have followed the progress of the Hope School closely from its humble beginings in Central Hall.

"I feel confident the city council will approve their request and give the Hope School the support it needs to continue to grow and thrive giving more choice for parents across the city.”