Pepperberry House is on Cledford Lane, Middlewich (1)

A care home for children with severe learning disabilities could be converted into a day school for South Cheshire youngsters with social, emotional and mental health needs, writes Belinda Ryan.

Pepperberry House in Middlewich, run by Compass, also provides ancillary education facilities on site, both for children living at the home and others in their care who reside elsewhere.

Compass has now applied to Cheshire East Council for permission to change of use of the Cledford Lane site from a care home to solely education use.

A planning statement, issued by Alder King Planning Consultants on behalf of the applicant, states: “Compass operates many independent special schools and the proposal for Pepperberry House is to provide a small school for day pupils only, with the existing residential care now to be provided in other existing homes in the locality.

“The school would have a registered maximum capacity of 24 pupils between the ages of seven to 19.

“Pupils would have social emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs and/or autistic spectrum conditions (ASC) and associated conditions.”

The applicant says, although the site will be registered with Ofsted for a maximum of 24 pupils, in practice the school would be unlikely to have all pupils on the site at any one time, as some would also engage in off-site activities and learning, and some would not attend on a five-day-a-week basis.

It is anticipated the number of staff on site at any one time would be in the order of 10 to 12.

The planning document says the catchment area for pupils will be relatively local.

The applicant is seeking to educate children within a reasonable travel distance of their home.

“In this regard, Pepperberry House is accessible to a large catchment of potential pupils, including Middlewich and surrounding settlements including Winsford, Sandbach, Northwich, Crewe and Nantwich,” states the document.

Pupils attending the school will generally come via referrals from local education authorities or from the applicant’s own care homes in the area.

The school will have up to six small classrooms, breakout rooms, dining facilities, staff areas including office space, kitchens, therapy room and vocational spaces.

The applicant says pupils will be educated in very small groups, given their specific education needs.

The existing garden areas will be retained for use by pupils and staff for both recreation and education purposes.

This proposed school at Pepperberry House is a separate, independent facility and in no way connected to the two new special schools – one in Middlewich and one in Congleton – recently announced by Cheshire East.

The Pepperberry House application, number 23/1427C, can be viewed on the planning portal on the Cheshire East website.

The closing date for comments is May 10 2023 and the application is to be determined by a planning officer under delegated authority.

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