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Image Credit: Darcstudio

Willmott Dixon has secured its second Passivhaus project this year, a new £57m secondary school for West Sussex County Council. It follows its appointment last month by University of Exeter for the Multi-Faith Centre.

Construction of the 900-pupil school in Burgess Hill, named The Bedelands Academy, is set to start later this year.  It will provide high quality secondary places for families living in the nearby new Brookleigh development as well as across the wider Burgess Hill area.

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. Around £18m is being contributed by developer contributions.  The school is designed to be net carbon-zero in operation, with the aim of creating the first West Sussex school to achieve Passivhaus accreditation.

Nigel Jupp, Cabinet Member for Learning and Skills, said:

“Willmott Dixon has extensive experience of building high-quality 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.”

Willmott Dixon has developed a lengthy track-record of building Passivhaus projects in recent years.  Alongside the recent appointment by the University of Exeter, other Passivhaus projects include Spelthorne Leisure Centre for Spelthorne Borough Council, student accommodation at St Peter’s College at the University of Oxford, Hackbridge Primary School and Harris Academy, both in Sutton, and the George Davies Centre for University of Leicester.  The company also shared a guide to building Passivhaus homes here.

Richard Poulter, managing director of Willmott Dixon in the South:

“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 will deliver in the South of England.

“The Passivhaus accreditation mirrors the commitments we have set out in our Now or Never strategy, to be to be zero-carbon in our own operations without offsetting by 2030. We are working closely with customers throughout their zero-carbon journey, including decarbonising their estates, and are looking forward to continuing this with West Sussex County Council in realising its sustainable ambitions.”

A 16-place Special Support Centre has been incorporated within the school 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 secondary school will be named The Bedelands Academy as part of an ‘all-through’ primary and secondary school 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. Homes England is contributing £18m and the land for the secondary school project. The secondary school is expected to open to its first pupils in September 2025.