Claim for judicial review delays school expansion for vulnerable children

Plans to expand Baytree School onto a second site in Brookfield Walk.

Plans to expand Baytree School onto a second site in Brookfield Walk. - Credit: Archant

Construction work on the expansion of Baytree School at Brookfield Walk in Clevedon is being delayed following the lodging of a claim for a judicial review this week by a nearby resident.   

The legal challenge disputes the planning and appropriation processes followed by North Somerset Council and was registered with the courts on Monday. 

The delay could mean the school will not open until September 2024.

The council does not consider there to be any merit in the claim but accepts that it would not be appropriate to begin building work on the new school until the court has considered the application.

Baytree School is unable to expand at its Weston site, based in The Campus.

Headteacher at Baytree School, Ed Bowen-Roberts, said: "Without the additional site in September 2023, we will not be able to provide places for all the children who we need to be at the school.

"We simply don't have the room. This will mean more children having to travel out of the area, more time away from home on longer journeys, and less time with their families.

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"I hope this matter is resolved soon and that work can get under way on this much-needed site for the benefit of so many children and their families."

Cllr Catherine Gibbons, the council's executive member for children’s services and lifelong learning, said: "I am deeply disappointed for our special educational needs community and for everyone who has worked so hard to make this school expansion a reality.

"We have a growing community of children with extreme and profound needs who desperately need and deserve this new facility for their education. 

"We care passionately about giving our children the best start in life, but to begin work on site now could be interpreted as not taking the judicial process seriously, and we will not do anything that could compromise the future of this project. We must follow due process."  

The council's process regarding the school expansion has already faced challenges which have been successfully defended.

An application for town and village green was refused and the planning decision was also referred to the Secretary of State who confirmed he is content that the matter be determined by the local planning authority. 

Cllr Gibbons added: "Given the huge amount of passion, commitment and energy that our officers and the school have put into this project already, my hope for everyone is that this delay is a short one. However, it will mean that the chances of us having the school completed in time for opening in September 2023 are slim, with September 2024 now looking like a more realistic date.  

"This delay will impact on a lot of children who will not now benefit from education at this purpose-built site which is heart-breaking for everyone involved, and especially their families.

"The delay will also incur contractual penalties, pushing up the overall cost of the project. This will impact on our special educational needs budget overall, meaning less money to spend elsewhere."

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