THE move to establish a Swanage secondary school has taken a huge leap forward following the donation of the town’s former grammar school building.

London-based property developer Welfare Dwellings Residential Care Ltd says it will hand over the building if district planners allow construction of up to 50 homes on site.

Pressure group Education Swanage is “thrilled” at the donation, which could pave the way for its 420-place secondary school opening in September 2013.

The group has worked to establish a secondary school ever since county education chiefs ruled against a campus in Swanage, which had been considered as part of a £36.5 million Purbeck schools shake-up.

The Purbeck Review involves the district switching from a three to a two-tier system, resulting in the closure of four middle schools in Swanage, Bovington, Wareham and Sandford in 2013.

Carl Syants, of Education Swanage, said: “The premises are simply fantastic. It has been divided up into dormitories over the years, but it will be a simple matter to just rip those out and get the classrooms back.”

The former grammar school building has not been used fully since the 1980s, when it was a outdoor education centre.

It closed as a grammar school in 1974.

Welfare Dwellings Residential Care Ltd managing director Paul Hensher said: “There is a need for a school locally. Carl and his team are working relentlessly and tirelessly to bring about this school.

“For our part we are, in principle, happy to donate the school for nothing but some housing on the site.”

Mr Hensher says the amount of housing – set for a site that has already been outlined by district planners as a preferred option to address Swanage’s housing shortage – would probably be between 35 and 50 dwellings.

He said: “We are happy to work with Education Swanage for the benefit of the local community. It is now up to the councillors.”

Education Swanage was handed the chance to establish its own school after the coalition government’s Academies Bill shifted power from local governments back to parents and teachers.

Mr Styants told the Daily Echo they would be submitting their latest bid by the start of next month.

“We’ve already got the minimum number of parents signed up, and obviously we are in a much stronger position now we have a free building,” he said.