Bradford, UK: Plans to open a new free school on the site of a former Bradford community centre have been put on hold.Khalsa Engineering Academy was due to open its doors to pupils this September but now it will be September next year. Sikh-faith based Khalsa Education Trust had already got the approval from the Department for Education to open the new academy as a Free School and had been on the verge of signing the Government’s final funding agreement to open at the start of the new school year. But the plan for the new academy to take over the site once occupied by Fagley Youth and Community Centre has been temporarily postponed – though the reason for the delay has not yet been made public. No-one was available to comment from Khalsa Education Trust but a spokesman from Place – a support services group working with the Trust to achieve educational excellence – said he understood nothing was happening now on the site because the school would not be opening until September 2015.
The site has been at the centre of a row between the youth and community centre’s committee and its landlord, Newlands Community Association, who took legal action and changed the locks. Newlands had previously tried to get the committee to voluntarily surrender its lease before it officially ran out next March, but the committee had wanted to stay where it was, despite Newlands offering a new base at St John’s Church half-a-mile away. The centre, which has now been loaned a three-bedroom in communities house to operate from, is still trying to prove the building was fundraised for by the local community and belongs to it and not Newlands – however, Iwan Williams, who heads the trading arm of Newlands, is insistent it owns the building and has the right to sell it.
Even Bradford Council has got involved organising an emergency meeting to try to broker a deal over the use of the old centre, but it ended in deadlock despite trying to persuade Newlands bosses to start a dialogue with centre staff and users, and to negotiate an interim agreement for the use of the centre. At a recent Fagley Neighbourhood meeting Bradford East MP David Ward has also questioned the Fagley site being used for a Sikh school because limitations on its reasons for sale state it has to be for community use. Ward councillor Ann Wallace (Lib Dem) said: “News of the school not opening is new to us but it means the building will stay empty when we could have still been in it, keeping it full and benefitting the local community.”