Plans for special school next to St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Eastbourne spark opposition

Plans to build a special school on football pitches next to St Wilfrid’s have been met with opposition.

A map of where the special school is planned to be built in Hampden Park
A map of where the special school is planned to be built in Hampden Park

A new school, funded by the Department for Education, is proposed for land north of the hospice, which is currently being used by Eastbourne Sports Park in Hampden Park.

Run by Southfield Multi Academy Trust, it would open in 2024 and look after up to 135 pupils aged 3-16 with autism or complex learning needs.

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It would employ up to 95 members of staff and up to 10 visiting professionals on a daily basis.

St Wilfrid's Hospice in Eastbourne

But St Wilfrid’s Hospice, which provides end of life care to patients, is formally objecting to the plans, due to noise, additional traffic, and access and parking concerns.

An in-house petition by the hospice against the plans gathered 535 signatures, with an official petition on the Eastbourne council website gathering an additional 98.

Documents, which will go before the council’s planning committee next Tuesday (February 25), say there is ‘potential for noise impacts from the use of the outside play areas on the users of the hospice grounds’.

The plan includes an acoustic fence on the boundary between the hospice and the school to help alleviate this, but there are also concerns about the noise from the building works.

Meanwhile, access for the new school will be via Broadwater Way, the same route used by the hospice.

According to the documents, up to 100 taxis could potentially be dropping off and picking up pupils at the beginning and the end of the day.

This could potentially create 300 trips in each peak period, which would affect traffic in nearby Broadwater Roundabout, Lottbridge Roundabout, and Rodmill Roundabout.

Statement from St Wilfrid’s

David Scott-Ralphs, chief executive at St Wilfrid’s, said, “Whilst we have raised objections about the planning application, we welcome the building of the school as a much-needed facility for Eastbourne and we are not objecting to its location next to us.

“Our specific concerns have been about the plan to locate the entrance to the school on the access road leading to the hospice.

“There will be a substantial increase in traffic both during the build process and once the school is open and we are concerned this will reduce access into and out of the hospice.

“One proposal we have made is to widen the road to cater for the additional traffic.

“We have also sought assurances there will be good noise protection between the school and us, as our npatient unit is close to the boundary.

“We launched our petition because we felt our concerns about the access have not been taken on board. But we do not want to stop this school from going ahead and we have always been clear about this.”

Other objections

There have been 42 letters of objection to the application, with Sport England and nearby gym David Lloyd among those opposing the plans.

Sport England says the plans would result in a ‘substantial loss’ of playing field – around half of what is currently available.

While David Lloyd is also opposing the application on the basis it could increase traffic and impact local businesses.

However, planning officers have recommended the application has planning permission granted, due in part to the ‘identified need’ for the new school.

The recommendation say it is ‘not considered harm would be caused, either on surrounding uses, on the highway network or visually on the area’.

The planning committee will make a decision on the proposals at the meeting in Eastbourne Town Hall on Tuesday (February 25), from 6pm.

To view the full application summary, visit the council website using the reference 190812.