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Protestors fight referral unit bid

PUBLISHED: 10:10 05 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:12 05 July 2010

TAKING ACTION: Ray Oubridge, from The Warren, Lowestoft, with other neighbours opposed to plans to build a new school off Saturn Close.

TAKING ACTION: Ray Oubridge, from The Warren, Lowestoft, with other neighbours opposed to plans to build a new school off Saturn Close.

CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a school for children with behavioural or emotional problems in Lowestoft have come under fire, with nearly 200 people signing a protest petition.

CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a school for children with behavioural or emotional problems in Lowestoft have come under fire, with nearly 200 people signing a protest petition.

Education chiefs at Suffolk County Council have applied to build a pupil referral unit (PRU) on part of a school's playing fields off Saturn Close, in the north of the town.

However, 180 angry residents have signed a petition complaining about the loss of 15pc of the playing field belonging to Harris Middle School and raising fears about the amount of extra traffic that will be created.

Waveney District Council has also objected to the application for the 24-student unit because of the loss of land that would be involved.

The controversy created by the application is another blow to the county's bid to build a new PRU in the town, after earlier plans to develop land at Pakefield were thrown out when residents won a battle to have the site declared public open space.

The latest application is due to be considered by the county council next month and, if the plans are given the go-ahead, the PRU would open from October 2009.

Protester Ray Oubridge, of Warren Road, said: “We are unhappy with the fact it is to be built on a playing field; they should be converting an existing site or building it on brownfield land. It is shoddy to be losing part of a playing field. They should be improving facilities already there, open the field to the public and charge them to use it.”

Another of the protestors, Peter Plummer, added: “It is not only about the PRU but how Suffolk County Council, having lost the ability to build the unit at Green Lane, is now railroading the start of the building before the year end or lose the £1.7m grant.

“Plus with the two tier educational system being implemented locally, there will be several perfectly good sites available in the near future, without the need to build on a school playing field.”

Other issues raised include fears about the dangers posed about an increase in traffic and that it would be near the existing Old Warren House PRU.

Mr Oubridge, 63, asked why the two could not be amalgamated.

He also believes the county council is required to ask the government for permission to develop playing fields under the Schools Standards and Framework Act 1998 and has demanded to know if this has been done.

The new unit would replace the Harbour PRU and provide education for children aged eight to 14 who face being thrown out of mainstream schools because of their behaviour.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said “all comments would be given full consideration.”

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