Fox: Council's special school plans for Clevedon 'appalling'
PUBLISHED: 07:09 01 September 2019
North Somerset MP Dr Liam Fox has labelled a local authority 'appalling' after it confirmed plans to build a £12.5million special school in Clevedon.
North Somerset Council has confirmed its intention to expand Baytree Special School, near Weston, to a second campus near Brookfield Walk despite opposition from neighbours.
The authority is responding to an 'urgent need' for more schools places for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND), and the council-owned site in Clevedon has been deemed the only viable option after officers reviewed 13 sites.
People protested the council's plans when the site was mooted as a potential location for the new campus, fearing loss of greenbelt land and the development's impact on wildlife.
The campaigners in July received the backing of Dr Fox, who insisted he would call on the Secretary of State for housing, communities and local government, Robert Jenrick, to block the project if North Somerset persisted.
The council has since confirmed its intentions, with detailed plans to be submitted this year - prompting Dr Fox to criticise the authority's new administration, which took control in May.
He said: "It is appalling one of the first acts of the new council is to remove such an important part of greenbelt community space in Clevedon.
"It is the opposite of their campaign promises. I continue to support residents and will raise with Robert Jenrick if necessary."
Mark Canniford, one of the council's executive members, said the district has an 'urgent need' to increase school places for children with SEND, and the site near Brookfield Walk is the only viable option to prevent 'vulnerable' children being sent to other counties for schooling.
He added: "I see no other possible location to extend Baytree Schools' provision for severely or life-limited disabled young people. This site gives much more local provision to meet their needs.
"I understand the sensitivities regarding the proposed expansion and am aware of the strength of feeling of local neighbours. Now that a decision has been made as to which site to allocate for the expansion, officers will be able to meet with residents to listen to their concerns and hopefully provide them with information regarding the proposed expansion which will allay their fears."
Huw Davies, chairman of governors at Baytree Special School, added: "We support the much-needed expansion of our current school with the creation of a second site.
"The second site will create a positive impact on the lives of the children and young people with the most complex special educational needs by ensuring access to the most appropriate learning environment."