A POPULAR park has been earmarked as a site of new multi-million pound secondary school - sparking concerns a well-used open space will be lost to the community.

Haslam Park, off Wigan Road, in Deane, has been put forward to house the second Kings Leadership School in Bolton, to tackle a chronic shortage of high school places.

Town hall chiefs say the proposed new campus would provide school places for the growing number of children in the area and give families greater choice over their children’s education. But those opposed to the plans are questioning the cost to the community.

Plans seen by The Bolton News show the school would occupy the whole of the park ­— but Bolton Council officials say under the plans improvements would be offset by tree planting and a ‘greatly expanded’ nature reserve on nearby Atkinson Farm.

Existing paths would also be improved, widened, and joined up with other nearby routes as part of a broader scheme to boost cycling and walking across the borough.

Alan Johnson, of The Green Party, said: “The school will take over two thirds of the park, and there is a lot of disquiet about the plan. During the pandemic this park was a lifeline for hundreds of people, where they could meet up, there is an existing play area for children from the community."

The school will be governed by the Great Schools Trust, which runs Kings Leadership School in Great Lever.

Bolton currently has a shortage of secondary school places ‘ within the right places’ and town hall chiefs say by next September demand will outstrip supply and a new 900-place school is required by September 2023.

The £15m school would be paid for the Department for Education but expanding existing schools would cost the council.

A temporary site could be found to house increased demand until a new build is completed.

Plans are said to be at a ‘very early stage’ and any new school would only be built following further public consultation.

Cllr Anne Galloway, the borough's children's services cabinet member, said: “The proposed school is great news for Bolton parents, providing school places for a growing number of children in the area, and giving them even more choice by bringing another quality secondary school into the borough.

“It also brings advantages for nearby residents, with a masterplan which not only enhances local green space but makes it easier and more enjoyable to travel by cycle or on foot.

“As the council works to regenerate the borough and create new jobs, it is right we ensure there are enough school places to give every child in Bolton the best possible start in life.”

Shane Ierston, chief executive of Great Schools, added: “Every parent deserves the right to send their child to an outstanding school.

“The prospect of having a new King’s Leadership Academy in Bolton means that we have the opportunity to give more families access to an education encouraging aspiration and achievement which has proved so successful at our academy in Great Lever.”