ESPA expands: Sunderland autism charity announces overhaul plans

ESPA South Hill College, 9 The Cedars, Ashbrooke, Sunderland.
ESPA South Hill College, 9 The Cedars, Ashbrooke, Sunderland.
Have your say

A COLLEGE catering for students with autism looks set for expansion and new jobs under ambitious proposals to completely overhaul a Sunderland campus.

Education and Services for People with Autism’s (ESPA) South Hill College in Ashbrooke has submitted plans to Sunderland City Council to extend its imposing Victorian villa.

With the help of a capital grant from the Education Funding Agency (EFA), the work would lead to the creation of a further six jobs and enable it to take on more learners, including those with more complex needs.

The proposals would see two new wings built to replace a series of small extensions that have been added over the years, while the existing building would be completely refurbished.

A detached classroom and studio space in the style of the stable type outbuildings of nearby properties would be built within the grounds, and accessible from the main building via a glazed walkway.

The work would mean that new assisting technologies and supported learning can be integrated to add to an overhaul of learning at the college, which would seen South Hill and the nearby Cloisters site amalgamated, creating hubs for key areas including employability skills, independent living, emotional literacy, music media and performing arts.

The charity’s chief executive Lesley Lane told the Echo that pending planning approval work will start late spring or early summer with the college reopening in September 2015.

She said: “We are extending the college site at The Cedars to create more educational space and as a result we can develop a number of community projects.

“We have received a grant from the EFA, but everything depends on planning.

“It would see an extension of each side of the building and the reinstatement of the coach house as a large community space. We’ve invited neighbours to come and a have a look at the plans and they have been very supportive.

“We’ll be able to cater for more families within the Sunderland area and more students, particularly with more complex needs.”