Council agrees £14million budget for new special school site

Baytree School artist's impression

An artist's impression of the new school site. - Credit: Rio Architects

More than £14million is set to be spent expanding a special school onto a controversial second site in Clevedon’s green belt. 

Despite local opposition, North Somerset Council approved plans for its land in Brookfield Walk last year and wants to be ready to act if it gets signed off by local government secretary Robert Jenrick. 

The authority hopes to start building in September, with the first children with very profound needs and disabilities attending a year later. 

The council this week voted to approve the £14.63million budget, to allow the authority's finance executive Councillor Ash Cartman to approve any changes to it, and award the contract to Wilmott Dixon. 

Cllr Catherine Gibbons, the executive member for children’s services, told the full council meeting on February 23: “I know for residents it’s been a difficult subject. Over 500 sites were looked at. This really was the best and only site. 

“It is of course in the greenbelt and we’ve had to demonstrate special need, hence it sitting with the Secretary of State as we speak. 

“I understand it’s very sad residents are losing it. The overall good outweighs the disadvantages for some. Sometimes it’s about the greater good for those who have the greatest need.”

More: Special school 'bursting at seams' due to high demand for spaces.

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There is no space for Baytree to expand its Weston campus so the council sought a second site. Brookfield Walk will offer better facilities and have space for up to 85 pupils. 

The council granted planning permission in September despite more than 1,000 objections.

Papers for the council meeting say there is still a risk of a judicial review. 

Clevedon ward member Cllr David Shopland said no one disputed the need for the special school but maintained that Brookfield Walk was the wrong location. 

He said it was “negligent” not to have a backup site immediately available. 

Cllr Gibbons replied that the council had looked at other options, including not expanding the school or seeking another site, but that would cause delays and increase costs. 

Currently many students with special needs travel outside North Somerset for their education. Expanding Baytree will allow them to be taught closer to home, reducing their carbon footprint and costs for the council. 

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