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(UK) Wokingham: Plans for new special school

Feb 6, 2023, Bracknell News: Plan for new special needs school in Wokingham to be decided

Near London

A plan to convert an office i

nto a private school for special needs children in Wokingham and the surrounding area is set to be approved.

A private education institution called the Odyssey Education Group submitted a plan to convert Buckhurst Court off London Road into a special needs private school.

Buckhurst Court is an L shaped office building in a secluded location between Wokingham and Bracknell, which is accessed from an extension of London Road at the junction with St Anne's Drive.

It served as the offices of the Volume marketing agency in 2015, which has since moved to Reading International Business Park.

The Odyssey Education Group currently runs Odyssey House School in London, and has been commissioned by Reading Borough Council's childrens services company Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) to provide a minimum of 24 school places.

BFfC have communicated with Wokingham Borough Council about locations for a special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) school.

This has led Odyssey Education to apply to convert Buckhurst Court into a school, which will focus on supporting those with social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) issues and/or Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

Buckhurst Court has 53 car parking spaces and benefits from landscaping.

A playground would be made using permeable material with a fence also being installed to secure it.

Wokingham Borough Council's planning department has recommended the conversion be approved.

However, councillor Maria Gee (Liberal Democrats, Wescott) has objected to the application, arguing that key details are missing.

Cllr Gee has pointed out that a number of documents laying out essential details have not been submitted, such as a transport management plan, a noise impact assessment or a design and access statement.

She has therefore argued that the plan lacks detail, and should be rejected until such detail is provided.

Furthermore, she pointed out that the site currently has no dedicated footpath, providing a safety risk for prospective teachers and pupils arriving on foot.

However, AM Planning Consultants, the agents for Odyssey Education, have argued that the application is merely for a change of use of an existing building rather than the construction of a new one.

They also argued that traffic to and from the site would be similar to when it was occupied as an office building.

Recomending approval, planning officer Tariq Bailey-Biggs summarised: "The proposal would be acceptable in principle and the new development would be compatible with its immediate surroundings in the context of the school setting.

"It would also not give rise to concerns relating to access and parking impacts, or to the protection of the existing residential amenities of the nearest residents, given the location of the proposal."

The office conversion is due to be discussed at planning committee meeting on Wednesday, February 8.

You can view the application by typing reference 223023 into the council's planning portal.


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