Councillor calls for openness on new school plan for Clevedon

Campaigners outside Clevedon Town Council offices earlier this year. Picture: BBC

Campaigners outside Clevedon Town Council offices earlier this year. Picture: BBC - Credit: BBC

A ‘major confrontation’ looms if the £12million expansion of a special school on greenbelt in Clevedon goes ahead.

Cllr David Shopland said the site off Brookfield Walk had been selected 'seemingly arbitrarily' and without the public knowing why 12 others were rejected in an independent review by North Somerset Council.

Baytree School, near Worle, needs to increase its capacity from 72 to 120 pupils by September 2021, however it cannot expand further.

Cllr Shopland, at September 11's council executive meeting, said: "The site has been seemingly arbitrarily chosen without any debate in open forum. This site is completely unsuitable.

"Residents are up in arms because they will be cut off from all possible public open space. They will protest strongly. They are collecting money to oppose it and looking at an appeal.

"Residents believe the decision was made behind closed doors - something reminiscent of the previous administration.

"I'm asking that the choice of the site is delayed for a proper debate involving all the sites, with district and town councillors and the public, to satisfy the majority of those involved that this has been considered rationally.

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"There were 13 sites. They have never been made public to the likes of me."

Many pupils with educational needs are educated outside the area, which is costly for the council, due to a lack of places.

With no space to expand Baytree School, North Somerset Council officers looked for other sites. They said Brookfield Walk fulfilled most key criteria and is in easy reach from Baytree's campus, but scrutiny commission members called for a review.

This was conducted by Cllr Mark Canniford who came to the same conclusion completely independently of officers.

He added: "You will very clearly have the opportunity to discuss these issues through the planning process."

Mr Shopland was accused of bringing up an item which was not due to be discussed.

He replied: "I'm not hijacking anything. I haven't got a mask or a horse and my name's not Dick Turpin. There will be a major confrontation with the public if you choose this site."

North Somerset MP Dr Liam Fox has vowed to ask the Government to intervene, if the plans for Clevedon are pushed through.