A NEW primary school could open on the site of a former gym in Colchester.

An academy trust is working with Government funders on the project to create the new school on land in Circular Road East, which was previously home to the Arena leisure centre.

The gym closed at short notice in 2015 after operators ABAC Leisure said it would not be renewing the lease as it was no longer a sustainable business, leaving a number of community groups homeless.

The site has been derelict and boarded up since.

A planning application, known as a screening opinion, has been submitted to Colchester Council along with a drawing of the school site.

Parties involved in the project are the Reach2 Academy Trust and the Education and Skills Funding Agency.

The Reach2 Academy Trust runs Camulos and Unity schools in Colchester and Burrsville, Kirby and Sir Martin Frobisher Academy in Tendring.

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A spokesperson said: “We can confirm that we have been in discussions with the Department for Education for a new Reach2 primary school in Colchester based on the council’s projections that there is a need for new school places in the area. The Department for Education is currently working through possible options to deliver the new school which will be subject to planning permission being granted.

“We hope to work closely with the local community to create an additional local school that will provide exceptional learning opportunities for local children.”

The site had been owned by the Ministry of Defence, but was transferred to RMPA Services, which was leading the redevelopment of former Colchester Garrison land.

Hundreds of new homes have been built around the surrounding Garrison area in recent years, adding to the need for more school places in Colchester.

The new school would be close to St John’s Green Primary School’s two campuses, at Abbey Fields and St John’s Green.

The Abbey Field site had two extra classrooms added just last year to create 60 more spaces.

Dave Harris, county councillor for Maypole and Colchester councillor for Berechurch, stood up for community groups upset by the loss of the Arena.

He said: “There have got to make sure the figures are right that show there is the demand and if it is built they have got to mitigate against causing gridlock in Colchester by not making the school run difficult with good transport links and paths.”

Essex County Council says 2,430 more school places are needed in Colchester over the next seven years.

In addition to expansion projects at five primaries in Colchester last summer, the council is planning to create more than 1,000 other school places in the area in the coming years.

It hopes to build a new primary at Lakelands in Stanway, while the Education and Skills Funding Agency has approved proposals for a school on the Chesterwell site in Mile End.

The council has spent £30 million on primary school projects in Colchester since September 2014, including new schools - Braiswick and Camulos Academy - as well as several school expansions.

Paxman Academy, in Shrub End, is due to open this September for 900 places secondary school aged children by 2023.