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Protestors vow over pupil referral unit

PUBLISHED: 09:34 20 October 2008 | UPDATED: 21:33 05 July 2010

PROTESTERS have vowed to continue their fight against plans to build a school for children with behavioural and emotional problems in Lowestoft, despite a recommendation the scheme should go ahead.

PROTESTERS have vowed to continue their fight against plans to build a school for children with behavioural and emotional problems in Lowestoft, despite a recommendation the scheme should go ahead.

Members of Suffolk County Council's development control committee will debate the proposals to build a pupil referral unit (PRU) on part of another school's playing fields when it meets on Thursday.

A planning officer has recommended that councillors vote in favour of the proposal for land off Saturn Close, despite objections from residents, Waveney District Council and Sport England.

Major concerns surround the loss of playing field land and the extra traffic that would be created, while calls have been made for the new PRU to be sited at one of the town's existing middle schools, which will shut from 2011 as part of an education reorganisation.

Protesters' spokesman Ray Oubridge, of Warren Road, said: “The fight goes on. We will make our protest along with Waveney District Council and Sport England.”

Nearly 200 people have signed a petition and Mr Oubridge said some of the protesters were expected to attend the meeting in Ipswich.

Education officers at the county council want to build the new Harbour PRU on land currently used by Harris Middle School, to replace temporary buildings in School Road. The unit would accommodate up to 24 pupils, usually on a part-time basis, who need extra support with their education.

In the report to councillors, the council's director for children and young people, Rosalind Turner, says: “The present building limits not only the range of subjects that we are able to offer, but also the methods with which we can re-engage with students.”

Suggestions that existing middle school buildings should be used have been ruled out because they are not due to shut until 2011 and education chiefs want the new PRU to be opened from the autumn of 2009.

Highways officials have not objected to the plans, but Sport England is against them because of the loss of part of a playing field while Waveney District Council says the applicant has failed to prove the playing field is surplus to requirements.

However, the county council's senior planning officer, Anita Seymour, says in her report: “The applicant has demonstrated that no alternative site is available and that the application site is surplus to requirements now and under future education plans for Lowestoft.

“I acknowledge that this development would lead to a loss of open space. However, I consider that the PRU would contribute significantly to the education of local pupils…”

As a condition of approval, the remaining playing fields would have to be open to members of the public outside normal school hours.

The development control committee will meet from 10.30am on Thursday at the county council's headquarters, Endeavour House, in Ipswich.

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