Councillor hits out at 'secret' proposal for £12million special school

PUBLISHED: 12:00 27 June 2019

Chairman of North Somerset, Councillor David Shopland.    

Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Chairman of North Somerset, Councillor David Shopland. Picture: MARK ATHERTON

Archant

Plans to build a much-needed £12million special school on greenbelt land in Clevedon have been branded a 'sorry saga'.

People fear the proposals for Baytree Special School, in Worle, to expand to a new premise in Brookfield Walk in Clevedon is already a done deal.

Subject to planning and consultation approvals, the new site could be available from September 2021.

If approved, Baytree School will have 72 pupils in Worle and about 50 in Clevedon.

The Worle school is the only one in North Somerset offering education to students with severe and profound learning difficulties.

Clevedon ward councillor David Shopland told the children and young people scrutiny panel on June 20 it appeared to the public the plans had been 'deliberately concealed' from them - an accusation the council refuted at the same meeting.

He added: "I've known about these proposals for two months but was sworn to secrecy because it was being kept under wraps.

"The council said 13 sites have been considered. They should all have been brought to you to make the decision. The previous administration did things behind closed doors. I want this new council to be transparent in all its actions.

"I was told one reason this site was chosen was because it belonged to the council and would cost nothing. I'm also told another site was turned down because it was on a floodplain. So is Brookfield Walk - it's (often) underwater.

"It appears it's almost a matter of deceit. This council has been kept out of the loop."

People and communities director Sheila Smith said she 'did not accept officers had been deceitful'.

She said North Somerset had a duty to provide special school places.

The loss of the open space in Brookfield Walk is also a concern which has been raised by people in Clevedon.

A public speaker at the meeting, Jakobus Van Blerk, said the public supported the expansion but not right next to the M5.

Baytree School has said it hoped to make the new school available to the community.

It is keen to offer its hydrotherapy pool to be used for swimming sessions and adult health needs.

It would also look to hire the hall and would set up a pupil-led café.

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