THE site of Burnley's controversial first free school has been revealed.

Backers have chosen the former Habergham High School, in Byron Street, as the preferred site for the ‘Christian ethos’ school.

The buildings were vacated as part of the £250million Building Schools for the Future programme.

But the Burnley High School plan has been branded 'disastrous' by a leading union chief.

The location was announced after the Life Church Burnley, Community Solutions Lancashire and the Chapel Street Schools Trust held a meeting with 100 parents.

A statutory process is now taking place between Lancashire County Council and the Department for Education over the site.

If given the go ahead, it would open in September, at a cost of £5million, with 90 Year Seven places available, but will ultimately see approximately 700 puipls including 200 sixth formers.

Executive principal for the proposed school, Elizabeth Haddock, said parents were very pleased with the choice of site.

She said: “There is lots of outdoor space including courts for games and grass pitches. The classrooms are large and airy with plenty of natural light.

“Every student will have a staff member to coach them and the school is deliberately smaller than many secondary schools to ensure an excellent education individually tailored to each student."

However opinions were divided over the impact of education in the town.

Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle said he backed the plan and hoped it would keep children studying locally.

He said: “I support the plan for a new high school and I’m happy for it to go ahead. As well as bringing something to our educational system it will retain the playing fields and facilities at this site which is a delight to the residents in that area.

“Currently 600 young people leave Burnley every day to be educated somewhere else and that has to stop. Hopefully this new school will be a draw for those young people travelling elsewhere.”

But faith groups, teachers and also representatives of major teaching unions, have joined with Burnley Council to oppose the plan.

Borough and county councillor Marcus Johnstone, who was schools’ cabinet member during the BSF process, has previously voiced concerns about the development.

NUT representative for Lancashire, Simon Jones, said the school would have ‘disastrous effects’.

He said: “The impact on other schools is something that cannot be avoided and has been seen elsewhere.

“If the site needs a use or more places are needed it is for the authority to oversee. In this time of financial constraints it is just wasteful to hand over funds to people outside the educational system for these projects.”

Last year The Lancashire Telegraph revealed how there were still hundreds of empty desks in Burnley’s high schools – with Hameldon Community College less than half full.