The education boss of a Midland authority set to open a city academy in September said it would rather have had the cash to build an ordinary state school.

The Grace Academy will replace Solihull's Whitesmore School in Chelmsley Wood with a brand new building backed by millionaire Christ ian entrepreneur Bob Edmiston.

But Ken Meeson (Con Dor-ridge & Hockley), the borough's cabinet member for education, admitted officials had reservations about the move.

* Tell us your view on this story. Get in touch by email, messageboard or send a web letter to the editor *

He claimed in the absence of any other option, the authority had no choice but to go with the programme.

Coun Meeson said: "Clearly had the Government offered us the money to rebuild it ourselves that is the road we would have gone down.

"But that wasn't an option at the time and we were offered the option of having an academy and gaining a brand new school."

The authority gave the greenlight more than three years ago - before the Government launched its Building Schools for the Future drive to refurbish every secondary in the country.

"We were in a position of could we afford to say no to a brand new school to replace a pretty awful building," added Coun Meeson.

An extensive consultation process was launched before final approval - a stage Birmingham's proposals have not reached yet.

Council officials from the borough visited other academies under construction and discussed with Mr Edmiston to see if his aims and objectives matched those of the authority.

A scrutiny exercise followed with taken from a wide range of stakeholders including teacher unions, headteachers and teachers.

Once satisfied, further consultation with parents followed through a series of roads shows.

Coun Meeson said: "The director of education worked very closely with the sponsor on the development of the academy and how it would work within a family of schools in the area as part of a collegiate.

"We have been very impressed with the way the academy up to this stage has been prepared to work with the local authority."

The Grace Academy will cover the same catchment area as Whitesmore and operate existing admission criterias, the authority claimed.

Evangelical Christian groups have become heavily involved in sponsoring academies, sparking criticism that faith-based organisations are gaining influence over pupils.

Mr Edmiston, whose Midland car import business has amassed him a fortune of about £300 million, is founder of the Christian Vision charity.

He is a member of Birmingham's Riverside Church and was recently linked to the current 'cash for honours' allegations that wealthy business figures were offered titles in return for sponsoring academies.

Mr Edmiston, who has donated millions to the Conservatives, had a Tory nomination to give him a peerage blocked by the Government.

Coun Meeson admitted there were original concerns over his religious roots.

"It was an area that we questioned very closely because we wanted to be assured that this was not going to be a school that was going to go down the creationism route.

"We had assurances on that. Mr Edmiston's beliefs are around business and enterprise which is his background. That will be the style of the school."

Speaking to The Birmingham Post two years ago, Mr Edmiston claimed he was passionate about education.