PLANS for a new school in Salisbury have received a major boost.

The Government has shortlisted the application from a local consortium to set up a University Technical College UTC in Salisbury, providing specialist science and engineering education for 14 to 18 year olds.

The application now faces a final interview and the UTC, if approved, would be worth around £40million to the area over a 10-year period.

Project manager Gordon Aitken said: “The Government has confirmed that only the strongest applications have been invited for interview and so this looks like excellent news for young people in south Wiltshire.”

The consortium bidding to set up the UTC includes the University of Southampton, 43 Wessex Brigade, Wiltshire College, Wiltshire Council and major employers including QinetiQ, the Health Protection Agency, Tetricus, Dstl and Chemring Countermeasures.

UTCs are state schools open to anyone. There are only about a dozen currently operating in England with another 20 due to open in the next two years.

Young people attend from 9am to 5pm and for 40 weeks a year, allowing them to specialise in science and engineering on top of their mainstream school studies.

At the end of their time at the UTC young people can go on to university, apprenticeships or technical jobs in industry.

The South Wiltshire UTC would specialise in defence industry skills, supported by the army and some of the world class employers in the area.

It would be based in central Salisbury and is expected to attract pupils from Southampton, Andover and Winchester as well as south Wiltshire.

The aim is for the school to open in September 2014 and parents and young people are already expressing interest in the school on its website

A team of six representing the consortium will travel to London later in January to present the proposals to Government representatives and answer detailed questions on the bid.

The Government has pledged to confirm if the application has been successful by the end of March.