Wimbledon's new secondary school has taken two big steps towards being built as Merton Council secured government funding and agreed a deal with Elim Church over its warehouse site and Merton Hall.

The Harris Academy in South Wimbledon is hoped to open in September 2020, with 1,200 places.

Now the council has signed a conditional contract with the church, allowing the transfer of the warehouse site in High Path after the partial development of Merton Hall is completed.

Council leader Stephen Alambritis said: “This is a big step. We are delighted with the progress so far in delivering a new school in the borough.

“There is enormous demand for school places in Merton. Years ago, parents sent their children to schools elsewhere, but now, more and more parents who live in Merton are proud to send their children to our excellent schools.”

Jo Larizadeh, principal designate of Harris Academy Wimbledon, also welcomed the funding announcement.

She said: “We are all absolutely thrilled to hear the news because this legal document is the final step; the Government’s formal commitment that we will open as planned.

“It is a clear sign that the Department for Education believes we are ready to offer an excellent education to Wimbledon families. Offers for the first ever places at Harris Academy Wimbledon have gone out to parents via email and post and everything is now in place for us to start to deliver the high standard of education here in Wimbledon that Harris academies are known for.”

The decision to develop Merton Hall drew criticism from campaigners, and because the council recognised it as an “asset of community value”, there will now be a process by which the public can bid for it.

A trigger disposal notice is expected to be issued by the end of this week.

Groups will have six weeks to register interest in buying the site, then 20 weeks to gather the money for the bid, which will then be considered by the council.

Councillor Alambritis said: “We are mindful of some residents wanting to have an opportunity to bid for Merton Hall. They are very welcome to do so.

“Under our plans Merton Hall will continue to be a grand building, primarily for use by Elim Church, but also by the wider community.”

This September, 120 places have been offered at the Harris Academy’s temporary site in Whatley Avenue, and 180 will be available in September 2019 at the Adult Education Centre.