October 10, 2008

50 Object to Special School Proposal

By LAURA DALE [email protected]

Protests have mounted against plans to transform Kingskerswell offices into a special school for challenging youngsters.

About 50 letters of objection have been received by Teignbridge Council and a petition is being circulated by villagers anxious to prevent the school from going ahead.

But the company behind the project the has reiterated that residents' concerns are 'largely unfounded' because of their tough inspections and working policies.

The Continuum Group, a company which specialises in caring and educating challenging young people, is applying for planning permission to change the use of Longlands Barn, Whilborough, from an office into a day school for up to 18 pupils.

Continuum says the pupils, aged between 11 and 17-years-old, will be closely monitored with 10 members of staff, recruited from the local area, working at the school.

But the application has sparked fears among Kingskerswell residents, who claim the school could lead to problems and an increase in traffic on a narrow road already used as a 'rat run'.

Paul and Tina Budd from Gourders Lane, said: "The site is in a quiet rural lane and is not serviced by street lighting or pavements and in some cases it is so narrow pedestrians must step into the hedge to allow a car to pass. The unit would generate extra traffic at peak times on Kingskerswell's congested 'rat run' lanes."

Other residents were unhappy at the plan after permission was granted for industrial use on the site.

Cllr Mike Haines said: "I have been contacted by about half a dozen residents which is unusual. I know there have been many letters of objection and residents have started a petition," he said.

He said residents had expressed concern about noise levels, an increase in traffic and possible knock-on effects of having children with behavioural difficulties in the area.

Devon County Council highways division have raised no objections to the plans.

Bob Hall, chief operations officer for Rochdale, Lancashire- based Continuum Group said: "Residents in other areas have expressed similar concerns, but they prove to be largely unfounded, and over time many people have befriended the youngsters, who have carried out odd jobs for them.

"We have a very high staff to pupil ratio at our schools, and any if do play truant, as they do at all schools, we immediately look for them."

Continuum says the school, which will teach the national curriculum, will have to be 'pre inspected by Ofsted' before it could operate as an independent school. Some vocational courses would also be available.

He explained the young people would attend the school during the day, and return to their care home in South Devon at night.

Mr Hall also said the group were more than happy to meet with residents.

The application should go before Teignbridge Council Development Control Committee this month.

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