Website Cookie Policy

We use cookies to give you the best possible online experience. If you continue, we’ll assume you are happy for your web browser to receive all cookies from our website.
See our cookie policy for more information.

Practice Areas

More Information

Leeds: 0113 244 6100

Sheffield: 0114 267 5588


Send us an enquiry

Restrictions affecting an academy's land and buildings

25 July 2016

A reminder about the legal restrictions there are on what you can do with an academy's land and buildings.

There are numerous restrictions on what academy trusts can do with their academies' sites. This is generally the case for all academies irrespective of the category of the predecessor maintained school. There are restrictions in the academy funding agreements, the academies financial handbook, various laws and in the land arrangement for the school site.

The precise details of restrictions vary depending on the current land arrangements. You will almost certainly need consent or to follow a process for all the following land arrangements you may want to do:

  1. Selling land 
  2. Buying land 
  3. Granting a lease 
  4. Acquiring a lease 
  5. Transferring a site from one academy trust to another 
  6. Erecting new buildings on a school site 
  7. Making structural alterations to existing buildings on a school site 
  8. Building on or changing the use of school playing fields 
  9. Granting rights or permissions over a school site (such as footpaths, utilities, media etc) 
  10. Installing major plant or equipment (such as solar panels, renewable energy, telecoms) 
  11. Entering into a charge or mortgage on a site 
  12. Agreeing grant obligations which include land clawback arrangements or security over the land and buildings or restrictions on dealings with the land and buildings

Depending on the project and type of school you may need separate consents from (or to follow processes with) several different sources:

  1. The Secretary of State via the EFA/DFE 
  2. The Local Education Authority 
  3. The Local Planning Authority 
  4. The Diocese 
  5. The Trust or any other land owner 
  6. The PFI company 
  7. Any current tenants or other users of the site

You can familiarise yourself with the rules by checking:

  1. The land clauses in the funding agreement for the academy (master and supplemental if part of a MAT) 
  2. The academies financial handbook – clause 3.9 covers leases 
  3. EFA guidance on property protections here
  4. EFA application forms for Secretary of State consents to property transactions here  
  5. DfE guidance on standards for school premises here  
  6. When expanding a school site, the DfE guidance on making significant changes to an academy here  
  7. The land document(s) for the school site.

The table below summarises the normal land documents for different types of schools and a couple of common transactions (of course there are exceptions to all rules!)

Category of predecessor school Likely land arrangements for academy Consents commonly required for the grant of a lease  Consents commonly required for building works

Community school

125 year lease from LA


Local authority

Local authority
Planning & Building Regulations

Foundation schools (without or without foundation/trust) Freehold EFA/DFE EFA/DFE
Planning & Building Regulations

Voluntary controlled and voluntary aided

Playing fields = 125 year lease from LA Playing fields =
Local authority
Playing fields =
Local authority

Buildings = Church Supplemental Land Agreement with Diocese/Trust

Buildings =
Buildings =
Planning & Building Regulations


Finally, it is worth reminding academy governors and headteachers that in the academy system the academy trust is responsible for these matters not the academy itself.  This means that land arrangements and documentation will need to be signed off by the academy trustees unless they have delegated authority for this to the governors and/or headteachers.

The precise rules are very detailed and specific to the type of school and type of transaction. We recommend that you speak to your legal advisers whenever you are thinking of making any changes to your land and buildings or granting leases etc to make sure you are legally compliant.


If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article further, please contact Emma Ridge or Tim Wrigley on 0113 244 6100.

You can also keep up to date by following Wrigleys Schools team on Twitter here

The information in this article is necessarily of a general nature. Specific advice should be sought for specific situations. If you have any queries or need any legal advice please feel free to contact Wrigleys Solicitors


July 2016 



Emma Ridge View Biography

Emma Ridge


Tim Wrigley View Biography

Tim Wrigley


09 Apr 2024

Charities Act 2022: new provisions introduced

What do the latest provisions mean for your charity?

09 Apr 2024

Cohousing Series: Navigating the Planning System

This article is the latest in our cohousing series following our team member as she develops her own cohousing scheme.

09 Apr 2024

CLH accreditation

Laura Moss achieves accreditation as a community-led housing advisor.