Sunderland's Ashbrooke School wins planning permission for expansion - despite objection from Sport England
Plans to expand a Sunderland specialist school to make way for more pupils have been given the green light.
Ashbrooke School, which opened in 2017, caters for children with a range of complex educational needs, communication difficulties and challenging behaviours and was rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted in its most recent inspection.
In 2019, education provider Witherslack Group lodged plans with Sunderland City Council to prepare the school for the future.
The scheme included a new single-storey education building catering for primary age pupils and creating around 30 jobs.
When completed, the hub aims to meet anticipated rises in pupil numbers with the remaining school building sidelined for secondary age students.
According to planning papers, the new building would boast six classrooms, an activity hall and a food technology area, alongside sensory and therapy spaces.
During consultation Sport England objected to the development stating the plans clashed with policies due to the loss of a playing field.
However, an agent for the applicant stated the development would allow the school to expand and ensure that “children get the most from their education experience.”
The council’s planning authority, approving the plans on July 24, said the benefits of improved facilities outweighed any “adverse impact” from the loss of a playing field.
A decision report reads: “Officers would advise that whilst there would be an adverse impact upon the local community through the loss of a playing field, there would also be a benefit to the wider community through the provision of specialist education provided by an operator who has received a ‘Good’ rating from Ofsted.
“The supporting letter from the agent identifies the benefits for pupils from the proposed development in terms of being able to operate both a primary and secondary school on the site.”
The plans were approved under emergency delegated powers introduced by the council during the Covid-19 pandemic.
As Sport England objected to the application, the plans will now be referred to the Secretary of State for consideration.
The Witherslack Group operates a range of schools, children’s homes, vocational training centres and learning centre facilities.
In June, education bosses also lodged a separate planning application to revamp sporting facilities at Ashbrooke School.
A decision on the ‘multi-use games area’ is expected by the end of August.