AN investment of £2.65m into the creation of a new primary school in Haltwhistle has taken a step closer after county councillors agreed a budget increase.

At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, county councillors agreed an overall budget increase of £1million, after a commitment to spend £1.6 million had already been agreed.

The local authority gave the green light to the £1.6m investment in February to support the reorganisation in Haltwhistle – sparked by the council’s decision last year to implement a two-tier primary and secondary structure in the Haydon Bridge Partnership.

Following a consultation, the Secretary of State for education gave final approval for the closure of the middle school and the extension of the age range of the first school to create a primary at the Haltwhistle Community Campus in July.

However, the initial proposal was for the first school buildings to be extended and it has now been decided that converting the middle academy building is preferred, given that it has a larger footprint and more facilities.

Northumberland County Council’s share of the extra spending will be £860,000, while WISE Academies, the trust which took over responsibility from Bright Tribe for Haltwhistle’s first and middle schools in June last year, will contribute £153,000 to an adjusted total of £2.65million.

The cabinet agreed the changes to the project at its meeting on Tuesday, but it now needs full council approval next month.

This will allow for a tender process to take place in November, with the work due to be completed by the start of the academic year in 2020.

Coun. Wayne Daley, the cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We are still paying the price for Bright Tribe’s disgraceful behaviour and lack of investment. They really let our children down in the west of the county.

“This investment will future proof the school and create a really good learning environment. We are committed to improving education outcomes.”

Hexham's MP Guy Opperman said: "This additional school investment in Haltwhistle is great news. Alongside the school and local community I campaigned to secure this extra money and I am delighted that Northumberland County Council has delivered on its promise."

In addition, WISE Academies will give the lease of the first school site back to the council, and selling it could raise £483,000.

WISE had expressed a desire to relocate an existing children’s centre to existing mobile units on the middle school site, but council officers recommended there should be a permanent solution; converting the middle school gym into the children’s centre, which would cost £198,000.