Land at the Sutton Hospital site has been bought for £8m, marking a major milestone in the battle to beat the borough’s annual burden on school places.

Sutton Council has agreed to the purchase of the Belmont site from Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust with a view to have a new secondary school built for 2017.

Greenshaw Learning Trust, which runs Greenshaw High School, Grennell Road, has the option to build a Government-backed free school at the brownfield site.

The purchase is seen as a considerable step by the council as, along with the site in Rosehill it already owns, there is now land for the two new schools the borough is predicted to need by 2019 to meet increasing demand.

Niall Bolger, Sutton Council chief executive, said: “We are proud to have secured a site for a new secondary school.

“Ever since we identified the need for a new secondary school to be built by 2017, the council has been working hard to find suitable sites and develop proposals so we could move quickly once Government funds are in place.”

The council sees the hospital site as having genuine potential.

It believes a school there could form part of the Sutton Life Science cluster along with the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and Institute of Cancer Research, although Greenshaw has stressed its school, wherever it is ultimately built, would not have a “curriculum with a concentration on the life sciences”, but offer a broad and balanced curriculum.

Should Greenshaw refuse the Belmont site, the possibility remains it could still build its school in Rosehill.

In that scenario, Sutton Council would be in a position to apply to build its own school at the hospital.

The council has been conducting feasibility studies into the two school sites and will be handing these to the Education Funding Agency to make a decision over where the first project should be built.

Greenshaw said it was “acutely concerned” that the proposed site was “suitable” for the school it proposed in the application the Department for Education approved two weeks ago.

Mike Cooper, chairman of Greenshaw Learning Trust’s board of directors, said the chosen site must be “sufficient for the school to operate effectively and can be achieved in time for the school to open in September 2017.

“We wait with interest to see the feasibility studies that Sutton Council has promised on both the sites they had identified.”

Peter Davies, strategy director at the hospital trust, said the £7,863,000 handed over by the council would be used to make “much-needed improvements in the facilities we use to treat our patients.”