Norwich Weather

Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 20°C

min temp: 14°C

£5m proposal to convert former Norwich fire station into a free school submitted for consultation

PUBLISHED: 09:05 14 February 2013 | UPDATED: 09:09 14 February 2013

The Sir Isaac Newton free school is taking over the old fire station in Norwich. Principal Mark Evans.
Photo: Bill Smith

The Sir Isaac Newton free school is taking over the old fire station in Norwich. Principal Mark Evans. Photo: Bill Smith


Proposals to convert the city’s former fire station into Britain’s first free school dedicated to maths and science are before planners.

School facts

• The fire station was built in 1934 and is owned by the Lind Trust, a youth-focused charity established by Christian entrepreneur Graham Dacre.

• It will be leased by the free school, which is open to youngsters from across Norfolk.

• At an open evening for the Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form, prospective students were asked how they will travel to the site. Seventy-seven responded to the transport questions, with 73pc indicating they will use the bus, 10pc on a bicycle, 4pc by car, 9pc by walking and 4pc on the train.

• The school estimates that, out of a maximum of 440 pupils using the site when it is fully operational, 321 students will travel by bus, 44 by bicycle, 18 by car, 39 by walking and 18 on the train.

• It also believes 50pc will live within a 20 to 25-minute walk of Bethel Street, and approximately 60pc within a 30-minute cycle ride.

• Prospective students are listed as being from west, north, south and east Norfolk, plus north Suffolk.

The £5m project to create the Sir Isaac Newton Maths and Science Sixth Form, in Bethel Street, aims to open in September for up to 220 pupils, followed by a second intake of 220 in September 2014.

Norwich City Council has started a public consultation on the plans. It remains to be seen whether objections will be lodged over the changes to the listed building, which could delay a decision on the project, or if it needs to go before the council’s planning committee.

The authority states the public consultation is due to end on March 1, with a decision deadline of May 10.

Glass-fronted designs for the doors, previously an entrance and exit for fire engines, have been dropped in favour of a more traditional wooden appearance.

A pre-application briefing before the planning committee resulted in councillors raising questions about the potential effects of extra school traffic on Norwich’s streets in the morning rush hour.

The free school plans state there is no car park, a “no car policy”, no pick-up or drop-off points for coaches or cars, and between 50 and 60 cycle parking spaces at the site.

The sixth form has also talked of a link-up with Pedal Revolution to provide free puncture repairs for pupils, among other services.

Planning documents rule out wind and biomass to provide energy but suggest solar is the most viable.

Mark Evans, sixth-form principal, said he had been interviewing pupils from across the county, with more lined-up.

He said: “Getting the balance between hi-tech, white laboratories and spaces full of Norfolk tradition is a real challenge but I think we’ve done that.”

Superintendent Paul Sanford, in charge at the neighbouring police station, has emailed the school to say he is “delighted” the old fire station is going to be put to “such good use”.

James Belcher, of Norfolk Fire and Rescue, also backed the idea and added many of the firefighters have “both fond memories and scary moments on the pole drop”.


  • We live in a small village with a school and it is complete chaos every school day with cars and children and mothers darting in all directions. So this school is being opened bang in the middle of Norwich. How do they think the children will be moved around safely while not causing the most awful traffic congestion? Helicopter? Who thought up this dopey site? As Ingo says how many of the children live within walking distance?

    Report this comment


    Thursday, February 14, 2013

  • Its a shame there are some who continually slam any sort of initiative to offer alternative educational opportunities. Firstly, this is a sixth form and as such I'm sure the majority will not be taken to school by their parents. As 17 and 18 year olds they are more than capable of using train, bus or foot! Secondly, this is not a politically driven fad, it is recognised that there are huge opportunities across the various engineering sectors but we are simply not producing enough engineers. Facilities like this and also the new Norfolk UTC will provide a massive boost in helping young people secure skills and qualifications which will enable them to secure meaningful employment. Lets make sure we are enabling our young people to make the most of opportunities which are going to be available rather than consigning them to the dole queue because they they are only skilled for jobs and sectors which are in decline.

    Report this comment


    Friday, February 15, 2013

  • The critics among you need to open your eyes. Firstly, this is a sixth form not a village primary so its highly unlikely that many students would be being dropped off by parents and they are more than capable of travelling on their own, be that by bus, train or on foot. Secondly, there absolutely is a need for this type of specialist education. This facility together with the Norfolk UTC is trying to address a nationally recognised problem that their are huge opportunities in various engineering sectors but we are simply not producing enough engineers. Engineering is a huge and varied sector and one of the few areas where there are jobs if you have the right skills and qualifications. It's got nothing to do with politics and everything to do with trying to open up the eyes of our young people and enable them to access opportunities.

    Report this comment


    Friday, February 15, 2013

  • £5 million being spent on a building, for school places that are not needed, at the same time that special educational needs budgets from all our schools are being heavily cut. Another example of this government throwing money at a few sharp elbowed parents. If there is £5 million going spare for education in Norfolk, then it should be for the benefit of the many and not the few.

    Report this comment


    Thursday, February 14, 2013

  • Proven demand for this is there? Or is it just another blank cheque thrown at the government's big idea for revolutionising education. Unwelcome, unwanted, and unnecessary free schools are sprouting all over the place lately, at huge cost during a time of supposed austerity. Get your priorities right and stop wasting our money imposing political dogma.

    Report this comment

    Police Commissioner ???

    Thursday, February 14, 2013

  • It sounds as if the public's comments regards traffic congestion have been heard. Although I welcome the cycle arrangements propose ensuring staff and pupils are awake when they park up their bikes, three quarters are still coming from outside Norwich, are bussed in, rather than using public transport, not a school for local people then, more of a pick and mix approach.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, February 14, 2013

  • This sounds good. We have been trying to cram square pegs into round holes for too long. We need a variety of teaching methods and specialities to cater for the variety of humanity. I particularly like the fact that pupils and staff will not be driving to the school.

    Report this comment


    Thursday, February 14, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

Most Read

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Most Commented

Show Job Lists