Totnes Town Council has commissioned a feasibility study to find out if its ambitious plans to buy a sizeable chunk of the town’s secondary school are possible.
King Edward VI Community College hopes to flog some of its land for £7million to raise enough money for improvements to existing classrooms and sports facilities and build a new sixth form block.
Councillors would like to buy the up-for-grabs Lower School site - which includes the Elmhirst Building and the sports and recreation fields - in a bid to save a much-loved green space and community asset.
The land is an essential “green lung” within Totnes and it would be a “terrible loss” for current and future residents if it was sold to housing developers, says the council.
The authority has set aside £38,000 to spend on the project, which is covered by savings made in other areas of its current budget.
To date the council has spent £18,392 on the feasibility study which is being project managed by Rhodri Samuel, the former chief executive of the Dartington Hall Trust.
The council has also commissioned property valuers Alder King, solicitors Stephens Scown, and planning and design advisers LDA.
Town clerk, Catherine Marlton, said: "All councillors recognised the importance of this site to Totnes and the surrounding area.
"They voted unanimously to seek professional advice and undertake feasibility work with the aim of keeping a much needed open green space near the River Dart, in an area with an ever increasing population.
"The work undertaken to date lays a solid foundation to work with the community college and other organisations to create something that has real wellbeing and economic benefits for the local community."
The council says it would expect to pay market value for the land via a government loan in the form of prudential borrowing, and maintain it for the future via a self-financing model that does not create a council tax burden for local people.
Once the feasibility of the project is complete, the local community will be consulted.
Ideas for making the project pay include partnering with Bob the Bus to create a park and ride, and drawing down funding for solar panels to feed charging points for electric vehicles and feeding back into the grid.
The council says it would also seek funding from various bodies, including the Lotto and grant giving trusts, for future improvements.
Mayor, Cllr Ben Piper, said: "We are looking at the much loved Elmhirst buildings and looking for ways to bring them into use for the community in a way that will also benefit the school.
"We tend to think being next to a potential cultural resource, rather than a housing estate, is a win win situation for everyone.
"Last but not least, resisting further commercial housing on the site not only secures the amenity for future generations, it also addresses the air quality issue along the A385 which is so bad it is one of only four Air Quality Management orders in the whole county - wins for the health of our children for decades to come."
The feasibility work is due to be completed by the end of October.
If the plans prove viable, the council hopes to start formal negotiations with the college before consulting with residents about its plans for the site.