Campaigners fight to protect land earmarked for school wins support
PUBLISHED: 15:54 02 October 2019
Campaigners are seeking town green status to prevent a school being allowed to expand onto greenbelt in Clevedon.
A field off Brookfield Walk is North Somerset Council's preferred site for Baytree School to expand provision for children with special educational needs (SEN), but those against the idea say it would rob people of fast disappearing green space.
Clevedon Town Council voted to support the town green status application on September 25.
What are the concerns?
Baytree School has room for 72 pupils but increasing demand means more places are needed.
North Somerset says expanding Baytree at the site, near Worle, is impossible and looked for alternative sites, concluding Brookfield Walk was the best.
However, a list of other potential sites has not been released, causing neighbours to believe this is a done deal - even though public consultation has only just begun.
North Somerset Council came under fire for its management of the issue at the town council meeting.
Campaigner Jack Vanblerk said people are not against Baytree's expansion, but the poor location choice.
And he questioned why Baytree has been left with not enough spaces up until now so it is in desperate need for additional premises.
Mr Vanblerk said: "Why has North Somerset Council put Baytree School in the situation it has now?
"Not having a plan B is what concerns me the most.
"It had not planned for any opposition or if the planning application does not go through.
"It should have a plan B - Baytree shouldn't be in this position."
He said Brookfield Walk is a popular area for dog owners and for parents to take their children.
A failure to protect it from development would force people to drive out of town to find parkland, he added.
Baytree School reaction
Headteacher Ed Bowen-Roberts told the town council the school's expansion is needed 'urgently'.
It predicts 14 families will need a place at the school by 2021, when there will only be three spaces.
Children would need to be educated outside of the district at a cost of £100,000 per year - money which would be better spent on education.
He said: "These are children who are non-verbal and non-mobile - they are the most vulnerable people we have.
"The need for extra spaces is now, not 2021."
Mr Bowen-Roberts said a failure to allow the school to build in Clevedon would set the scheme back 18-24 months.
Clevedon Town Council decision
Town green status provides land with extra protection from development - but can only be obtained if a 'trigger event', such as a planning application, has not been submitted.
A petition signed by 350 people was presented to the council from people living in Clevedon who want the greenbelt protected.
Cllr Hannah Young said Mr Bowen-Roberts' words were 'distressing' but the land is earmarked for recreational use.
But not everyone voted to support town green status.
Cllr Morgan said: "I have sympathy (with neighbours), but I have a great deal of sympathy for children with SEN.
"It is sad that these children are having to be transported miles out of their environment.
"I find this a very difficult one to come down on one side or the other.
"(But) I'd hate to think families are sat at home wondering 'where are my children going to go (to school)?'
"It's a shameful situation."
Cllr Ann Shopland proposed the council supported the town green status application and the majority of members voted in favour.
She said: "This piece of land was given to the people of Clevedon."
North Somerset Council response
Following the town council's decision, the Times asked North Somerset Council for its reaction to the town green status application.
Its spokesman said: "We have received an application for town green status.
"The application will be processed in line with the council's duty as common registration authority."
Consultation on the plan runs until October 25.
Drop-in events will be held at North Somerset Council's Castlewood office and at Weston Town Hall on Monday and October 10, respectively, from 2.30-8pm.