The county council has submitted £10 million plans to build a new special school in Derbyshire.
Its proposals, if approved by the authority’s own planning committee later this year, would see a purpose-built special school built close to the existing Alfreton Park Community Special School in Wingfield Road.
The new school would see the current Alfreton Park site demolished.
It is no longer fit for purpose – due to the specific needs of teaching dozens of children with special educational needs.
The school was built in 1960 and is badly in need of repairs and improvements.
A shortage of storage space for dozens of wheelchairs is a prime example of the school’s more unique issues.
A replacement school is now being planned, in an area currently used for grazing and an adventure playground, known as Highfield Plantation, to the west of the current school site and Alfreton Cricket Club.
Once demolished, the former school site would be returned to public use as a community parkland.
The adventure playground on the Highfield site would be relocated as part of the development.
Documents submitted with Derbyshire County Council’s application say that the school currently has 84 pupils, with the new replacement set to increase capacity to 105.
Pupils would be aged two through to 19 and would have a variety of special educational needs including autism, learning and communication difficulties, hearing and visual impairments and other complex behaviours.
Many will require the use of walkers, wheelchairs or mobility scooters.
Pupils attending the school may come from a larger-than-normal catchment area due to the specialisms it would provide.
The application says that by current government standards for special schools and the amount of space pupils require, the current site should really only have a maximum of 50 pupils.
So, while the school would cater for more pupils, it also aims to provide them with the recommended amount of space to properly manoeuvre – with an increase of around a third.
Nine new members of staff would be hired as part of the development, taking the overall number of employees to 76.
There would also be a range of nursing and therapy professionals visiting the site on a regular basis.
The number of parking spaces would increase from 38 to 118 – including spots for disabled users and minibuses.
Most pupils are expected to arrive at the site by mini-bus, taxi or car.
Due to the restrictions of the current site, there is a consistent issue with drop-offs and pick-ups, especially due to the higher-than-average number of pupils who genuinely need to be dropped and picked up close to school.
Included in the plans are two outdoor gym equipment areas, a bike track, sensory garden, outdoor seating and performance areas, along with a large area for trees and other plants.
Meanwhile, a new multi-use games area will be built – and available for public use out of school hours.
It would include a five-a-side football pitch along with basketball and netball courts.
Also in the proposed development is a “therapy hub” including space for music, drama, arts and a trampoline.
Each classroom would have its own storage area for mobility equipment. It is intended that pupils could “park” the equipment they use to get to school in these areas, and swap them out for those they use in school.
The £1.7 million hydrotherapy pool on the current site (built in 2017) would be retained, as well as the Grade-II listed “deer shed” – it would be used for workshop activities once repaired.
Demolition of the current school will only take place once the new building is up and running to prevent any disruption to the pupils.
Construction is expected to take two years. This will mean there will be no community park on the site for two years, while the current one is demolished and the new one rebuilt.
The replacement adventure play area would be built just north of the hydrotherapy pool and would include a vast range of timber equipment for all ages.
Demolition of the current site would take 12 weeks and would be carried out between the hours of 7.30am and 6pm Monday through Friday and 8am to 1pm on Saturday, with no work on Sunday and no noisy operations before 8am on any day.
Access to the site would still stem off Wingfield Road, however, within the new school site there would be various different parking and drop-off sections to help alleviate congestion.
A report submitted with the application says: “Alfreton Park School is a specialist community in which all pupils and staff strive to create a secure, welcoming and inclusive learning environment.
Aspirational goals and inspirational teaching lead to all members of the community being active partners in learning; maximising independence and creating a love of learning.
“The ethos of the school is based on creating a positive learning community in which all individuals can develop the skills to maximise their independence and which prepares them for their adult life.”