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Plans going on show for new specialist school for North Norfolk

29 January 2020

Residents are being invited to a pre-planning drop-in event to view plans for a new school in Fakenham for children and young people with autism.

The school would be based on the former Fakenham College site, subject to planning and other approvals and is part of Norfolk County Council’s £120m investment to transform education for children with special educational needs and disabilities in the county.

Cabinet Member for Children's Services at Norfolk County Council, Cllr John Fisher said: “We’ve pledged to transform special needs education in Norfolk which is why we’re investing millions of pounds in building up to four new specialist schools and establishing more specialist units in mainstream schools across the county.

“We’ve always said that we want the former Fakenham College site to become a school for children with autism because it will mean that these children and young people who need specialist support and live in the surrounding area don’t have to travel such long distances to get the education they need and deserve. This is an important proposal and I’m looking forward to meeting local people at our exhibition to explain more about it.”

The drop-in event will be taking place at Fakenham Community Centre, Oak Street, Fakenham, NR21 9DY on Friday 31 January 2020 from 2pm to 6pm. Representatives from the design team from NPS Property Consultants Ltd and Norfolk County Council's Children's Services team will be on hand to answer questions.

The proposal is to develop a school that will provide modern learning facilities for up to 100 children and young people aged 5-16 with autism. It would be run by an academy trust with experience of providing this type of specialist education. Applications from providers for running the school have been submitted and the Government will make the final decision about the successful applicant in early Spring.

A planning application is timetabled to be submitted in February and a formal consultation about the plans will take place during that process. If approved, the new school could start accepting pupils from early 2022.

Norfolk County Councillor for Fakenham, Cllr Tom FitzPatrick said: “I am in no doubt that the Fakenham community is positive about the possibility of hosting such an important facility for children and families living with autism in north Norfolk. We all know that with the right support from experts helping them to learn, these children can make real progress and go on to have successful futures.”

He added: “I am also aware that the community is interested in knowing what will happen elsewhere on the site and I am absolutely committed to continuing to work with all stakeholders to ensure their interests are represented as the plan for the site develops. I am delighted that, as part of this process, we have already been able to offer a parcel of land to the Cricket Club to help support their ambitions and that we are talking to the Town Council about how they can use parts of the site for the benefit of the community.”

Although it's not possible at this stage of the project to say how much the school would cost, similar developments typically cost between £12m and £14m to build.

A six week consultation about the potential re-use of the former playing field closed on Friday 24 January and a report will be submitted as part of a formal process for seeking Government approval for re-using the field.

If granted, approval would enable the council to locate the school on part of the field, subject to planning and other approvals.

Also as part of its £120m programme to transform special needs education in Norfolk, the county council is currently consulting about proposals to create around 142 additional specialist learning places in mainstream schools across the county. This consultation can be found at www.norfolk.citizenspace.com/childrens-services/srbprovision.

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