POLITICAL leaders on Surrey Heath Council should have been told the Elmhurst School site was due to go up for sale, it has been claimed.

Labour leader Councillor Melanie Longden said the site was of such strategic importance to Camberley, the group leaders should have known.

Chief planner Roger Finch said he was unable to say anything as he was bound under confidentiality.

Mr Finch said Elmhurst had submitted proposals to the council before the announcement last Thursday that the performing arts school was to move to Birmingham.

Cllr Longden said she was able to understand the constraints of commercial confidentiality but said this was a prime site for a sustainable housing development.

She also believed planners should come up with a suitable development brief for the school site.

Former mayor Roy Lilley called for the Surrey Heath Local Plan to be rewritten after the Elmhurst School site came forward.

Mr Lilley believed the two controversial housing sites earmarked for Bagshot were obsolete because the three-and-a-half acre site would provide most of the borough's development requirements.

He said: "This is the most significant windfall site to come up in Surrey Heath for 20 years."

Elmhurst had been in talks to become an associate school of the Birmingham Royal Ballet Company and details of the move were finalised two weeks ago.

The school has several different sites in the town centre and a spokeswoman said the school would go up for sale in the summer or autumn.

Elmhurst currently has 170 pupils studying at the school and famous former pupils include Cold Feet star Helen Baxendale, Sarah Brightman and actress Jenny Agutter.

The school would not move until September 2004 and developers would not take possession of the site until the move had been completed.

The spokeswoman said it was difficult to say what would happen in the future.

"The pupils and their care are of the utmost importance on our part. Some of the pupils will have left when the move happens and some will not go into the sixth form and that's something we are looking at."

Surrey Heath MP Nick Hawkins said he had been aware of the planned move for some time and said he was disappointed to see the school leave Camberley after 80 years.

"I am very sad that Elmhurst is to leave the town, but I have had long discussions with John McNamara and with the Reverend Robert Crossley and I understand that they have to look to the future of Elmhurst."