A CAMPAIGN has been launched for developers to invest in a new secondary school in a town that is "growing in size but going backwards academically."

Radcliffe has been without a secondary school since the last pupils left Radcliffe Riverside in 2014 — more than a decade after the town was promised a new high school, following the amalgamation of Radcliffe and Coney Green High Schools in 2003.

Plans for a new free school have been more than two years in the making. Chapel Street Community Schools Trust is due to submit a bid in the Government's latest wave of free school applications, the deadline for which is Monday, November 5.

Residents have called for a 'committed response to education'. MPs and Council leaders said a secondary school for Radcliffe remains a top priority.

Steve Pritchard, who was born and bred in Radcliffe, said: "When I was growing up there were two high schools in Radcliffe. Now there are none. The town is growing in size but going backwards academically.

"When I heard that the East Lancashire Paper Mill site, that has been earmarked for a new school since about 2003, is now to become more housing, it riled me up because it's 15 years of false dreams.

"It has been too long since the children were served by a high school."

Mr Pritchard now lives in Heywood but has family living in Radcliffe and counts the town as his home.

He has launched a petition, proposing that Section 106 contributions — given by developers to improve community facilities and social infrastructure — be invested into a new high school.

It comes at a time when Bury Council is considering plans for more than 400 houses at the former East Lancashire Paper Mill site and up to 200 houses at land off York Street.

The Radcliffe Times understands that Council-owned land at the East Lancashire Paper Mill and Radcliffe Riverside High School sites remain under consideration as potential locations for a high school, with a 1,000-place capacity.

Mr Pritchard said: "A lot of people have been complaining for a long time that Radcliffe gets the short end of the stick from Bury Council.

"What I am looking for is a committed response to education in the town.

"We have hundreds of homes being built. These should all generate section 106 payments aimed at improving the infrastructure of the town to support the development."

Radcliffe, with a population of more than 29,000, is the only town in Bury without its own secondary provision.

Chapel Street's application would be for a free school, meaning it would be funded by the Government but not controlled by the local council.

James Royal, CEO of the charity, said: "We are fully committed to delivering what the community desperately wants.

"We are working with Rishi Shori and Ivan Lewis to ensure we can find an appropriate site for the school.

"We have to work within a very strict framework for this bid.

"We have support from hundreds of people who have said this is a need for young people in this area."

Ivan Lewis, MP for Bury South, has pledged that a secondary school for Radcliffe remains his top priority.

He met with Mr Royal and Aredi Pitsiaeli, of Chapel Street, in April to discuss their plans.

He said: "Securing a secondary school for Radcliffe remains my top personal priority.

"I am working closely with the Council leader Rishi Shori and the new chief executive Geoff Little OBE to explore all avenues which will enable us to submit a funding bid to Government as soon as possible.

"We remain committed to a potential partnership with Chapel Street but if this proves unviable we will be pursuing other options."

Bury Council Leader Rishi Shori, who represents Radcliffe West, said: "Bury's Labour Council absolutely agrees with the sentiment of the petition and is actively supporting Chapel Street in its bid for a new secondary school in Radcliffe.

"We are also investigating what other options are available for a new school."