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Decision on plans for new SEND free school on Ipswich's Woodbridge Road deferred as concerns over road access remain



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A decision on plans for a new 60-place SEND free school in Ipswich has been pushed back while road access concerns remain outstanding.

Ipswich Borough Council's planning committee voted by eight votes to three to defer a decision on the application by the Department for Education and Bowmer and Kirkland Ltd to develop the old BT depot land in Russet Road, just off Woodbridge Road.

While councillors welcomed the site being redeveloped for a new special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) free school - currently known as Woodbridge Road Academy - they said there were outstanding questions around road access off the narrow residential Russet Road.

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 road has not been adopted by Suffolk County Council, meaning enforcement of poor parking there could be an issue, while vehicles at the start and end of the school day could cause traffic problems.

The committee has opted to defer a decision so that more details can be sought from the developers around whether that road can be adopted, whether road access arrangements there are stringent enough, if a road access from Woodbridge Road is possible, and whether solar panels could be installed on the roof of the new school as part of sustainable energy measures.

Councillor Carole Jones said the school use for the site was welcome but having an adopted access road was 'absolutely crucial'.

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

"The travel plan issue has not been resolved, it's still a work in progress. It is clear the applicant needs to wok on this and present something that is acceptable and workable," she said.

"Everybody wants this school but we have got to be satisfied it can function."

The developers have confirmed that an access would be created from Woodbridge Road for the purposes of construction traffic but not once the school is open.

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

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

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

Councillor Sam Murray, who opposed deferring a decision, said: "We desperately need this school in Ipswich," adding that the "security is reassuringly considered".

The site allocations plan for Ipswich has the land listed for housing, but planning officers said there had been plenty of time for housing applications to come forward which had not happened.

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

It is now listed for a school site in the emerging local plan.

The developers' application said it would meet the needs of youngsters with complex communication, sensory and emotional needs.

It added: "The new school in Ipswich will supplement SEND schools in the west and north of Suffolk to ensure consistent pathway for all students with special needs.

"The school will be a calm and productive environment, minimising sensory overload for pupils and supporting the trust’s curriculum and organisational mode."

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