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Seven ride in pursuit of Blackburn academy

CONTRACTS - LANCASHIRE

SEVEN firms are chasing a controversial scheme to build an academy in Blackburn.

The Darwen Academy is sponsored by Rod Aldridge, who was executive chairman of Capita when the support services firm won a £190 million regeneration contract from Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council in 2001.

The council is also the client for the academy, a situation which has raised concerns in some quarters that Mr Aldridge's £2 million sponsorship, through the Rodney Aldridge Charitable Trust, represents a conf lict of interest.

HBG, Wates, Norwest Holst, Laing O'Rourke, Bowmer & Kirkland, Miller and Lancashire firm Eric Wright all submitted tenders for the project earlier this month.

The winner of the £29 million project will be announced by the end of the year.

Darwen Academy will replace Darwen Moorland High School and will cater for 1,200 pupils aged 11 to 16. An additional sixth form will have 400 places.

As academy sponsor Mr Aldridge will control the school's budget as well as the curriculum.