Expanding Wardle Academy to accommodate more students

Wardle Academy

Type of development



Define Architects





Wardle Academy has been under growing pressure to make room for more students. In Spring 2023, we collaborated with Define Architects to ensure a plan for expansion could begin on site. This way, additional students can join classes in Autumn.   

We actively engaged with Rochdale Council during the application process. It helped us get planning approval within the needed timeframe. This was crucial to keep Wardle Academy’s impact in the community on track. Now, work is well underway on site. 

Project highlights: 

  • Eco-conscious and privacy-focused design  
  • Seamless stakeholder communication  
  • Strategic compromises for project greenlight 
  • Anticipation of council requirements 
  • Planning approval for state-of-the-art school facilities 
  • Immediate action post-approval 


Wardle Academy  

Wardle Academy in Rochdale is a standout converter academy. It educates 1,200 students, ages 11-16. Positioned in Wardle, Littleborough, and Smithy Bridge, it’s a community pillar. The academy’s aim? Drive lifelong learning and prepare students to positively impact society.  


A shortage of student spaces 

In November 2022, Rochdale Council identified a pressing need for more secondary school spaces in Greater Manchester. With new school construction delays and more residents moving into the area, the council needed a fast and effective solution. 

Wardle Academy’s expansion formed a key part of this solution with the target being 50 extra student spaces by September 2023. To accommodate this rise in student population, new teaching classrooms were required. The academy’s prep kitchen also needed to be extended as it wasn’t capable of serving hot meals to 300 pupils. 

To add additional planning complexity to the strategy, the academy is also located in the Green Belt. New building from within the Green Belt requires solid justification and a clear understanding of policy complexity, both are vital to securing approval.


Expert planning, seamless collaboration  

Wardle Academy faced a tight development programme. Meeting this required expert planning support and we were excited to partner with Define Architects, who share our collaborative and proactive project approach.  

The application was submitted to Rochdale Council in December 2022. The initial design proposed a two-storey, pitched roof extension. It was carefully planned to fit within the existing developed area of the site, without any additional footprint transgressing into the Green Belt.  

The extension was designed to deliver 383.92 sq. m of extra floor space including: 

  • Four new teaching classrooms 
  • A prep kitchen to cater hot meals for around 300 pupils  
  • Relocation of existing female WCs on the ground floor 
  • Internal remodelling to existing classrooms on the first floor  

However, during consultation (despite meeting privacy distances) it was felt by officers that the proposal may have an undue impact on nearby residents’ privacy. Quick on our feet, we supported Define Architects to re-envision the design, guaranteeing a respectful distance between the academy’s new structure and neighbouring homes. 

Lighting design was also adjusted to minimise disturbance. And additional eco-friendly elements were embraced, including a green roof and a plant wall. 

During the council’s consultation period, we maintained continuous dialogue ensuring pre-commencement conditions were avoided and a speedy start on site could be made.  


Major progress in addressing the student space shortage  

Planning approval was subsequently granted on 16th June 2023 and is now progressing well on site. A true testament to our planning strategy which centred on transparent communication, collaboration and staying proactive. Throughout this process, we:  

  • made sure every aspect of the plan met necessary specifications 
  • engaged in open conversations, addressing all arising concerns 
  • supported the architect to flexibly adjust the proposal in response to feedback, maintaining momentum  
  • navigated challenges to reach consensus and secure the approval 
Wardle Academy


“Eden Planning’s collaborative approach enabled Wardle Academy to move forward to determination.  Eden took the time to actively listen to key stakeholders ensuring they understood all perspectives. The team’s expertise and understanding of the Client and the broader communities’ needs enabled delivery of an effective strategy to achieve the much-needed expansion of Wardle Academy within the complexities of the Green Belt.” Gavin Watts (Founding Director)