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Developing School Land - new guidance from LocatED

on Wednesday, 03 April 2024.

Are you making the most of your school land? The Department for Education's property company, LocatED, recently published advice to bodies with responsibility for school land and buildings about development opportunities, including land disposals.

The aim is to 'unlock potential in the education estate' and fund critical rebuilds.

The advice provides useful guidance for school leaders who are keen to establish if their school land can be used to unlock capital through development projects or disposals. However, if such opportunities are limited in respect of any particular school site, school leaders should be aware that there are still many other potential options that could be explored to save money or generate revenue, including for example third party lettings and applying for funding.

Understanding your school site

It is important to seek legal advice at an early stage of any project.

All bodies responsible for school land and buildings are subject to particular statutory, contractual and funding related obligations in relation to their land and buildings that must be complied with, and it should be noted that these obligations are more onerous when it comes to playing fields.

As such, a good starting point is to consider how the school land is held. As an example for academies, which were formerly community schools, the freehold owner of the school land is likely to be the local authority. The Department for Education model academy 125 year lease (under which these school sites are occupied) will often prohibit the grant of an underlease to a third party without written consent from the local authority landlord. Structural and external alterations are also usually prohibited unless the consent of the local authority landlord is obtained.

If you have any queries in relation to your school site and the ownership position (big or small) please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be able to assist.

Title matters

Before setting out on any development of school land it is important for school leaders to understand whether there are any title matters or historic third party rights that apply over it which could prevent or restrict the land being used as intended following the development. We can review the title to the school land for you and produce a comprehensive report.


In addition to the local authority landlord, there are likely to be other interested parties that school leaders will need to involve, such as the Department for Education or other organisations like Sport England or the Football Foundation for example. We can help you determine what steps need to be taken to consult with and obtain any necessary consents from these parties.


In relation to procurement and the legal documentation required, there is no 'one size fits all' and this will simply depend on the nature and scope of the development.

We are legal specialists in education property and construction and can support school leaders with whatever documentation is required to enable you to deliver a successful development project.

If you have any queries please contact Luke Exton in our Academies, MATs & Schools team on 07468 698 970, or complete the form below.

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