New special school planned in Hailsham

editorial image

Proposals to build a new special school in Hailsham are to go before county council planners next week. 

On Wednesday (August 14), East Sussex County Council’s planning committee is set to consider an application to build a specialist school for children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) at Reef Way in Hailsham. 

According to planning documents, the school – to be arranged into an upper and lower school with separate entrances – would provide places for around 80 pupils between the ages of four- and 16-years-old.

In a report recommending the application be approved subject to legal agreement, a county council planning spokesman said: “The principle of educational development is supported by the development plan and by outline planning permission. 

“The proposed development is considered acceptable in its siting, layout and design and impact on its surroundings in terms of residential amenity, drainage, biodiversity and the surrounding highway network. 

“It is therefore considered to comply with [planning policy].”

While the application has been put forward by the county council itself, the school is expected to be run as an academy free school by The Beckmead Trust, which currently operates one other special school in Kent.

The proposals come against a backdrop of, what the county council describes as, ‘significant cost pressures’ in providing SEND school places in East Sussex. 

By providing the 80 new spaces the county council says it will be able to reduce (but not eliminate) its spending on private school spaces.

In a design and access statement submitted as part of the county council’s application, a spokesman said: “Even with the new school the authority will require some places to be commissioned within Independent, Non-maintained Schools Spending (INMSS), but it will make spending on these placements more manageable.

“The costs of INMSS provision in East Sussex are significantly above those within the maintained/ academy sector and do not provide consistent value for money.

“The creation of new provision, therefore, would allow the council to effectively commission higher cost placements within the independent sector for children with the greatest need as opposed to using high cost placements for children where no capacity exists in maintained schools or academies, as is currently the case.”

While recommended for approval, the application has seen some concerns raised by local residents, particularly around the impact of school traffic on Reef Way and the surrounding area. 

In all council planners have received 10 objections from local residents, which also raised concerns about the potential impact on wildlife, the loss of an informal recreational space and general infrastructure pressures within Hailsham.

Concerns have also been raised by Hailsham Town Council, although it says it is supportive of extra school provision. These concerns are around the proposed access to the school site, which it considers to be inappropriate.  

As well as classroom and playground space, the school will include 57 car parking spaces for staff and visitors and 22 drop-off and pick-up spaces. 

Planning documents say the school is going to initially operate staggered timings for drop-off and pick-up times, which is intended to avoid overspill of parking into Reef Way.

If approved by the committee, any planning permission would be granted subject to a legal agreement requiring road improvements in Reef Way.  

For further details of the application see reference WD/3400/CC on the East Sussex County Council planning website.