PLANS for a new free school in Chorley have been scuppered, less than three months before it was due to open.

Secretary of State for Education Michael Gove has written to MP Lindsay Hoyle to confirm he was withdrawing funding for the Chorley Career and Sixth Form Academy.

The Department for Education (DfE) said it did not feel the academy could meet the required value for money standard or offer a high quality alternative to existing education establishments in the town.

The Gill Academy Trust, the organisation behind the school, has attacked the decision, accusing the DfE of ‘bowing to political pressure’, saying it ‘lacked the conviction and vision to see the project through’.

The academy has already held numerous open days to recruit students, interviewed for teachers and other staff and entered plans to convert the town’s former tax office on Water Street into a temporary base.

A spokesman for the Gill Academy Trust, said: “The DfE has withdrawn funding at the 11th hour.

“We are awaiting a written confirmation explaining their decision, and we don’t believe they have led the project effectively for a successful outcome for a free school in Chorley.

“We believe we have an outstanding model for an innovative school.”

The creation of the school has been opposed by the heads of all seven borough high schools, who jointly wrote to the DfE expressing fears it could divert resources away from existing schools, all of which are rated ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.

In recent weeks the Labour-run borough and Tory-controlled county councils have expressed doubts about the need for the school.

MP Lindsay Hoyle also welcomed the decision.

He said: “It was clear that any free school would take funding away from the existing schools in Chorley, which I know are dedicated to providing good quality education to all children.

“It simply couldn’t measure up against our existing state schools and colleges.”