Noise assessments have been carried out and a report and recommendations were submitted to the local planning authority in August 2021. This report can be viewed on our planning portal website.
An additional three months of air quality (in addition to an earlier three-month assessment) was requested by the planning authority and this ended in July 2021. These findings have been submitted to the local planning authority and the report has been uploaded. The planning authority have accepted that the noise and air quality assessments meet planning requirements.
Because of the amount of time since the original submission, more ecological surveys have been carried out. An updated ecological appraisal assessing potential changes in condition or presence of protected species since the original appraisal submitted with the application (Bentham-Green, S. 2020) is now available. This has been done to identify any apparent or potential ecological constraints to the works and provide recommendations, as appropriate, to enable compliance with planning policy and wildlife legislation. The report confirmed the condition of the 13 habitat types remained similar to that previously recorded, with the exception that some of the dense scrub and tall ruderal vegetation previously present beneath the line of trees bisecting the centre of the site had been removed by approved clearance according to the original method statement. You can read the assessment on the planning portal.
On Monday 6 September 2021, a decision notice was published granting consent to the erection of an up to 85 place, single storey Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties School (use class D1) for 3yrs to 19yrs including classrooms, recreation hall, dining hall, hydro-therapy pool and therapy rooms plus external play areas, parking and amenity space. Initial planning condition requirements have been approved.
Whilst planning approval is in place, as a judicial review claim has been made to the courts, the council accepts that it would not be appropriate to begin building work on the new school until the court has considered the application.
Matters for consideration
Many feel that a school or development should not and cannot be progressed on a green belt site. Paragraph 145 of the National Planning Policy Framework states that “inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the green belt and should not be approved except in very special circumstances."
For the second site for Baytree School to be possible the Children’s Services Directorate had to prove that very special circumstances exist. In such cases the need for a special school can over-ride the green belt restrictions.
Building a special school on green belt land isn’t unique to North Somerset. In appeal cases to the planning inspectorate - reference APP/Y3615/W/16/3151098 and reference APP/C4235/W/18/3205559 - the Secretary of State allowed a special school to be built on green belt land, finding that “Overall, the Secretary of State agrees with the Inspector that the need for the proposed development has been robustly made out. He considers that the improved provision for special needs education, specifically for those with very complex special educational needs and disabilities that cannot be met elsewhere, in both quantitative and qualitative terms, carries substantial weight.”
The report to our Planning and Regulatory Committee identified while the proposed site is in green belt land, the need for the school outweighs the restrictive green belt policies.