top of page

(UK) Hounslow: 'Much-needed' special school rejected; only 1 in 37 special schools built

Oct 18, 2022, Schools Week: Vital special school rejected over plan for flats

W. London

A “much-needed” special school first approved five years ago in west London has been rejected for planning permission by councillors opposed to building a five-storey block of flats on the site.

The Wing’s Academy was due to open in 2024, six years after ministers approved Hounslow’s bid for a new free, social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) school.

Hounslow’s special needs services are creaking, with Ofsted in February finding significant weaknesses in its SEND provision. “Too many” children were placed out of the borough to meet needs.

The case reveals stumbling blocks for building homes on school sites just as the government renews its bid to find school land suitable to be sold for housing.

The Wing’s plans were for a 90-place 11 to 19 school as well as 124 flats – 35 per cent of them affordable – on a derelict site owned by the Department for Education.

The new school, run by Orchard Hill College Academy Trust, would serve pupils from Hounslow and Ealing.

But the planning committee rejected the proposal over noise, privacy concerns and outdoor spaces. More than 20,000 objections were received, including from the neighbouring Sikh Gurdwara temple, MPs and residents.

It is not clear when the school will now open. The site’s developers said they were “disappointed” and were “exploring all avenues” before deciding on next steps.


Labour-run Hounslow currently spends nearly £900,000 a year sending 16 secondary-aged pupils to independent schools because of a lack of state places.

The council is to join the SEND safety valve programme and will be given a bailout to plug a £23.2 million [$26M] deficit in school funding.

The proposed school would provide places for pupils with education, health and care plans (EHCPs) who have social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs. They currently use local alternative provision, which supports children who have been excluded.

The percentage of Hounslow pupils with EHCPs has risen from 3.5 per cent in 2018-19, to 4.1 per cent in 2020-21, which is above the national average of 3.6 per cent.

The council spends £11 million [$12M] on independent and non-maintained special school provision, according to its documents….

In the committee’s decision notice, councillors said the “submitted noise impact assessment and subsequent technical notes fail to fully understand and mitigate any possible noise impacts from the neighbouring Gurdwara” on the development.

The flats’ windows and balconies also “would be an intrusive and unneighbourly addition resulting in a loss of privacy”.

Free schools face huge planning hurdles. Unity Schools Partnership’s 2017 free school in Havering is finally opening next year after taking a “long time to secure planning permission”.

The school is on green belt land so needed approval from the local authority and the Greater London Authority.

Schools Week revealed last month how just one in 37 special and AP free schools pledged since 2020 had opened in a permanent home, despite a chronic crisis in available spaces….


bottom of page