Challenge to special school site expected to fail
PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 August 2020
A bid to prevent a £12million special school being built on a green space in Clevedon looks set to fail.
The town council and more than 150 people have backed Jakobus van Blerk’s application to list Brookfield Walk as a town green.
The land is owned by North Somerset Council and it has submitted plans to create a second site for Baytree Special School.
Councillors are being advised to refuse the town green application when they meet next week.
Advising the authority, Leslie Blohm QC said the land is held by North Somerset Council for planning purposes so there is a ‘statutory incompatibility’ with the town green application.
Plans for the school have split opinion – there are currently 1,075 objections and 652 letters of support, plus backing the Department for Education.
Some support the new school being built but said Brookfield Walk was the wrong location, with one saying: “Over the past 50 years of living in what I consider a beautiful town, I have witnessed the decimation of the surrounding countryside.
“Why is the last part of Clevedon’s green belt being sacrificed? Once it has gone, future generations will scratch their heads in disbelief of the decisions that are being made today.”
In their letter of support, the Sscondary heads In North Somerset said: “It is our civic, educational and moral duty to ensure we provide the best education and educational facilities we can for all of the children in our county and this provision is a much needed step towards that.”
Another supporter said: “While I appreciate this field will be lost to local people who use it for walking their dogs or playing football they can go and walk or play somewhere else while it isn’t that simple for these children to just go somewhere else and receive the education they deserve.
“Do you really see people going for a walk or playing ball a higher priority than children receiving an education?”
The Department for Education said the council had made a ‘compelling case’ after considering 528 sites across North Somerset.
It said: “The urgent need for a special school within the community and the benefits it will provide for some of the most vulnerable children in society could reasonably be considered to outweigh the limited harm caused by the loss of a relatively small area of low-performing green belt.”
Weston MP John Penrose said expanding support for children with special needs ‘can only be a positive step’ but Liam Fox, the MP for North Somerset, said building on the green belt could set an ‘unwelcome precedent’.
If approved, the second site for Weston’s Baytree Special School will be a single-storey building designed to integrate into the natural environment, with parking for 64 vehicles, landscaping and outdoor play facilities.
The move would see the number of places available for youngsters with special needs and severe and profound learning difficulties rise from the current 72 to 120.
The development would create 12 classrooms for pupils from preschool to age 19, bathrooms, offices, a sports hall, a dining area, a kitchen and a hydrotherapy pool.
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