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Building work set to start on Ipswich's new special educational needs and disabilities school Woodbridge Road Academy next year after plans approved



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Construction work on a new special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) school in Ipswich is to begin in the spring after planning permission was granted.

On Wednesday morning, Ipswich Borough Council’s planning committee unanimously approved plans for the new 60-pupil academy on the old BT depot site in Russet Road, just off Woodbridge Road.

The plans had been deferred from last month so that a site visit could take place to inspect access road arrangements that had been a cause for concern, but councillors said they are now satisfied.

An indicative CGI image of what the new free special school near Woodbridge Road in Ipswich could look like. Picture: DFE
An indicative CGI image of what the new free special school near Woodbridge Road in Ipswich could look like. Picture: DFE

Naomi Shenton, principal designate for the new school to be known as Woodbridge Road Academy, said: “I am very relieved and very excited and can’t wait to move forward and get this school built so that we can welcome our pupils as soon as possible.

“This will be really important provision. We have got 60 places available so that we can really support 60 pupils and their families, and we are really keen to work together with families to make the biggest difference we can to pupils and their life chances.

“Now we have got planning permission we will go back to our construction team for an updated timescale and we are hoping that works will start in spring 2022.

The former BT depot land in Russet Road, Ipswich, where plans for a new special free school have been lodged. Picture: IBC
The former BT depot land in Russet Road, Ipswich, where plans for a new special free school have been lodged. Picture: IBC

“We are planning to open in September 2022 and will be doing that in temporary accommodation.”

Questions had been raised previously over the Russet Road access, as it is currently a private road which means the double yellow lines cannot be enforced to the same degree.

There had also been requests to investigate a possible access directly off Woodbridge Road, as well as securing solar panels on the school roof.

The planning meeting heard that an access directly to Woodbridge Road had been ruled out because it was felt it could cause more problems, while it is understood Suffolk County Council is looking to adopt Russet Road that will mean it can be maintained and enforced properly.

An indicative CGI image of what the new free special school near Woodbridge Road in Ipswich could look like. Picture: DFE
An indicative CGI image of what the new free special school near Woodbridge Road in Ipswich could look like. Picture: DFE

The planning report said there would be a ‘comparatively low level of residual car trips’, while arrangements have been made for only inbound traffic in the 15 minutes prior to the start of the school day, with all vehicles then being allowed to leave together.

The school will feature a main two-storey building, multi-use games area, outdoor dining and social spaces, 43-space car park, and drop-off and pick-up space.

It will cater for up to 60 SEND pupils aged between nine and 16, with 30 staff.

The former BT depot land in Russet Road, Ipswich, where plans for a new special free school have been lodged. Picture: IBC
The former BT depot land in Russet Road, Ipswich, where plans for a new special free school have been lodged. Picture: IBC

Councillor John Cook said councillors were ‘reassured having seen the physical dimensions of Russet Road’.

He added: “We know that a school of this kind is badly needed – there are limited sites for it and I am wholeheartedly in support of progressing this.”