A new special school building which will cater for 100 students with social, emotional and mental health needs has moved a step closer after plans were lodged with the local council.
River Tees Academy Grangetown will take in youngsters aged between five and 19 years old from across the Tees Valley and employ about 70 teaching staff.
Eco Modular Buildings Limited, on behalf of the Department for Education, is seeking permission to build on derelict land belonging to Redcar and Cleveland Council to the west of Argyle Road, in Grangetown, which once contained now demolished terraced housing.
The academy is already up and running at a temporary location in Charlbury Road, Middlesbrough, which was formerly opened last year by the River Tees Multi-Academy Trust and has 32 pupils.
A previous consultation over the Grangetown plans saw a letter and information leaflet distributed to 900 nearby homes, with ten comments subsequently being received which raised concerns about highways and access impacts, as well as amenity and security issues. Members of the public have until March 3 to comment on the application that has now been submitted.
Permission could be determined via a council ‘delegated decision’, unless the application is called in by a councillor to go before the local authority’s regulatory committee, or a sufficient number of objections are received. In prior discussions with the applicant, the council has said it is accepting of a development at the designated location in principle.
A statement included with the plans said the new school would contain four primary classrooms and seven secondary classrooms, along with soft play and a sensory room, a library, workshops, kitchen and dining hall and offices. There will also be provision for 59 car parking spaces, six pupil drop-off zones and five stands for bicycle parking.
The school will have a 2.4 metre high security fence around its perimeter, while sports facilities, including grass pitches planned as part of the development, could be available for the public to use. It will be predominantly single storey, aside from a double height activity studio which will be sited away from nearby homes, with access from Roberts Street for pedestrians and vehicles.
The statement said: “Whilst the building is located towards the existing built development of Grangetown, it is still set back from the existing residential properties to avoid overlooking and privacy issues with the residential neighbours.
“A green plaza is to be created promoting good access in and around the school building for pupils and staff alike and a pleasant outlook for the neighbours.”
It added: “Overall, the proposed building has been designed and carefully tailored to the needs of the pupils keeping in mind flexibility and adaptability to the dynamic changes in education in the long term. The learning spaces have been designed to compliant levels of natural lighting, well-proportioned rooms, and providing clean simple flexible layouts.
“The proposed building is externally designed to be of high quality, ensuring that it contributes positively to the area’s character and minimises any impacts on its surroundings. It also includes generous landscaping and boundary treatment, including young native woodland planting, wildflower meadows and overall tree and shrub planting to maintain a green, open feel to the site.”
The statement said a transport assessment had concluded that it was an accessible and sustainable location and the planned development would not have a significant impact on the local highway network.
Work could start in July this year with an anticipated end date being July 2024 in time for the 2024/25 academic year.
There is growing demand for state-funded school places for youngsters with special educational needs. In 2020 the River Tees Multi-Academy Trust successfully applied to establish a new free special school for the Tees Valley with the Education and Skills Funding Agency previously earmarking £6.5m towards its capital and start-up costs.
The Department for Education has also allocated a further £2.3m over two years in so-called ‘high needs’ funding to provide special educational needs places.
Headteacher Leanne Chilton said: “The planned opening of the new build for River Tees Academy Grangetown is July 2024.
“The free school opened in temporary accommodation for 32 learners in September 2022. River Tees Academy Grangetown will offer 100 places to learners aged 5-19 with social, emotional and mental health needs and most learners will have an Education Health Care Plan.
“We want all of our pupils to enjoy their education, engage fully and make exceptional educational progress. The planning application for the new build for River Tees Academy Grangetown is currently in process with Redcar and Cleveland Council.”
It was originally hoped the new permanent school would ready to open in September for the start of the 2022/23 academic year. But the original developer pulled out due to commercial reasons and had to be replaced by another company, meaning the project has been delayed.
Source: Teeside Live