Contractor appointed to build new low-carbon secondary school

West Sussex County Council’s ambitious project to create a new ultra-low-carbon secondary school in Burgess Hill has taken another significant step forward with the appointment of a contractor.

Following a competitive tendering process, the County Council has appointed Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd to deliver the new £57m school, with initial work set to begin on site later this year.

The County Council is leading the way on building the 900-pupil secondary school at the new Brookleigh development, providing high quality secondary places for families living in the 3,500 new homes and the wider Burgess Hill area. It will be part of one ‘all-through’ primary and secondary school on two sites, named The Bedelands Academy.

West Sussex County Council has committed nearly £40m of funding to design and create the new school, in what is the Council’s single largest school investment in the last decade. Homes England is contributing around £18m in developer contributions and the land.

The school is designed to be net carbon-zero in operation and the first West Sussex school to achieve Passivhaus accreditation, the highest standard of energy efficiency a building can reach.

Nigel Jupp, Cabinet Member for Learning and Skills, said: “The contractor has extensive experience of building high quality, low-carbon schools and their appointment marks a second major milestone in as many months, after planning permission was awarded in December last year.

“Helping children and young people to fulfil their potential and tackling climate change are two of the Council’s big priorities in Our Council Plan. In creating this innovative new school, we are delivering on those priorities by creating the most environmentally friendly school possible where children will flourish.

“We look forward to working with our partners to deliver these modern and inspiring educational facilities for families in Mid Sussex.”

Richard Poulter, Managing Director of Willmott Dixon Construction South, said “We are delighted to be working on this Passivhaus project in Burgess Hill. Carbon reduction is hugely important to our business, with the secondary element of the Bedelands Academy being the third Passivhaus school we have delivered in the South of England and the first in West Sussex. The Passivhaus accreditation mirrors the commitments we have set out in our Now or Never strategy, supporting a net zero future by 2030.

We are keen to support our customers when they choose to prioritise low or zero carbon options with their projects and are looking forward to partnering with West Sussex County Council in realising its sustainable ambitions.”

The secondary school will have a 16-place Special Support Centre for children with special educational needs and disabilities, along with high quality sports facilities that will be available for community use.

The project underlines the Council’s commitment to significantly reducing carbon emissions in our Climate Change Strategy, with climate resilience built into the designs to ensure the school:

• Is highly energy-efficient in operation
• Provides an inspiring and welcoming, inclusive environment for learning, following best practice standards
• Generates its own energy on site without using any fossil fuels, producing an estimated 296,000 kWh of energy a year from around 1,000 solar photovoltaic panels
• Retains and enhances the existing areas of biodiversity within the site, including the mature oak trees that are home to rare bats, and the hedgerows that provide habitat for dormice.
• Stays a comfortable temperature in all conditions using fresh air ventilation, supporting staff and pupils’ wellbeing

The new ‘all-through’ primary and secondary Bedelands Academy will be run by the University of Brighton Academies Trust. The primary school is being developed and funded separately by Homes England, the Brookleigh master developers, on a nearby site.

The secondary school is expected to open to its first pupils in September 2025 and will grow in size each year.