springfield special school in Crewe

A special school in South Cheshire can go ahead with expansion plans to accommodate an extra 60 pupils after Cheshire East gave permission for an extension to be built, writes Belinda Ryan.

Springfield School caters for children and young people, between the ages of four and 19, who have autism, severe learning difficulties and complex needs.

The school was given permission to expand by Cheshire East’s children and families committee earlier this year, subject to securing planning approval.

Today (November 30), the council’s southern planning committee gave the go-ahead for plans to extend the existing school sports pavilion at the site off Crewe Green Road, to extend and re-model the existing kitchen facilities and to provide additional off-road parking.

Headteacher Lisa Hodgkison told the meeting the extension was needed as the school should have 176 children but currently has 213 on roll.

“Unfortunately, there are no other specialist schools that are maintained, or academies locally within the area, so this means really long journeys for children from the age of four going out to Manchester, Liverpool, Stoke and some beyond,” said Mrs Hodgkison.

“This doesn’t only cost a lot for placements, because they’re independent placements so they’ll cost a lot more… it also incurs huge transport costs.

“But, ultimately, from my perspective, a child should not be travelling out of their locality.

“These are our children, from Crewe and Nantwich and some of the surrounding areas, that need specialist places.

“Having this expansion will allow us to take some of those children, allow them to have an education where they should be, placed within their locality.”

The headteacher said the school was using off-site provision at the nearby university but this was time-limited.

Bunbury Cllr Sarah Pochin asked whether the expansion would bring the school to the point where they could cater for those in need now or whether it would help provide future provision too.

Mrs Hodgkison said there was an increasing need for more specialist provision and the school was working with the council to deal with this.

“We’re due to open a satellite school in Wilmslow as well,” she said.

“In terms of this [Crewe site application], I would say it would probably be full within two years.

“However, we are already working on the next stage and we obviously do need to expand beyond our site, which is why we started to look at the Wilmslow site because there’s also a need in that area.”

The committee was told by planning officer Gareth Taylerson, the most contentious aspect of the application was the parking provision but plans had since been amended.

The application would also mean 17 trees would be lost, but some re-planting was proposed.

Crewe Town Council had objected to the application because of this – and was criticised for it by Cllr Anthony Critchley (Crewe Central, Lab).

He told the committee: “I think it’s disgusting that the town council’s planning committee have made five or six representations about trees.

“We’re talking about kids here.”

Cllr Joy Bratherton (Lab), ward councillor, moved the application be approved.

“This has been a long overdue extension and one that is increasingly needed and I support it wholeheartedly,” she said.

The proposal to approve the application was seconded by Cllr Laura Smith (Crewe South, Lab) and the vote in favour was unanimous.

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