Plans for a new free school in Ebbsfleet Garden City have been shelved by the Department of Education because of a lack of potential pupils.

New Generation Schools Trust (NGST) announced that the Hope Community School in Springhead Park, Ebbsfleet Garden City, has been pushed back.

The school was planned to open with two forms of entry at reception, providing 60 places, next year.

Once at full capacity, the school would provide 420 places.

According to the NGST, the Department for Education is no longer confident that the school will attract enough pupils to be financially viable.

Chairman of New Generation Schools Trust, Paul Weston, said: "Because demand for school places has changed significantly the Department has raised serious concerns about the need for and the ongoing financial viability of a school in this area. It is also not our intention to open a school in an area which would ultimately compromise the stability of other local schools. We understand the rationale behind the decision, although are naturally hugely disappointed after almost four years of hard work.

"We also realise this will be disappointing for many of the school’s supporters and we are aware of many parents who were depending on the school opening in 2018."

The latest Education Commissioning Plan from Kent County Council states that there is a need for the equivalent of 12 new secondary schools, and 70 new primary classes, over the next four years to ease demand in the county.

However, data recently released by Kent County Council has demonstrated that there are sufficient places for reception children in 2018 and onwards from then - meaning the opening has been shelved.

Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, said: “I am disappointed by the decision to pause this project. The project team have been tireless in their efforts to complete the initial phase of the project and those of us who have been working hard to support them are deeply frustrated that we are unable to open in 2018.

"The school would have offered an alternative choice for families in Northfleet and had made good progress towards opening in September 2018. Obviously the demand for school places is a vital element in the approval and ongoing financial viability of the school and unfortunately data is now suggesting that the projected demand is no longer there. I would like to thank all at New Generation Schools Trust for their hard work to date and will continue to support their efforts to deliver a school on this site in the future.”