SCHOOL PLAN NOT ‘PRUDENT’

General View of the site off Coalwharf Road in Wisbech, which is being proposed for the new purpose-built  County School.
General View of the site off Coalwharf Road in Wisbech, which is being proposed for the new purpose-built County School.

PLANS to relocate the Pupil Referral Unit from March to Wisbech are set to be unveiled on Monday (October 31).

But one local county councillor fears the proposals are being rushed through for a site that is totally inappropriate to ensure £2.5million worth of funding is not lost.

Cambridgeshire County Council is looking to build the Pupil Referral Unit, which became the County School in September, on a piece of land adjacent to Somers court off Coalwharf Road.

But County Councillor Simon King fears the site, chosen by the council because they already own the land and therefore can proceed with planning applications quickly, is the wrong place for such a facility.

The County School caters for children no longer in mainstream schools for a variety of reasons including emotional and behavioural problems.

And Mr King fears there could be a conflict between the needs of the students attending the 35-place unit and the adjoining Somers Court old people’s home.

He is also concerned about the proximity of Octavia View, which caters for homeless people.

“I am very concerned about the proposed site. I really don’t believe this is the best place for it and I can foresee there might be problems for all concerned,” said Mr King, who favoured a previously rejected idea of siting the unit on land adjacent to the Hudson Centre.

He said the council were keen on the site off Coalwharf Road because they own the land and therefore will not have to waste time going through the purchasing process.

The land at Hudson Centre is owned by the Church Commissioners and could be difficult to purchase.

Mr King did agree the Coalwharf Road site was better than other proposals which included putting the school on an industrial estate.

“That would definitely be wrong. It would be sending out entirely the wrong message to these children, who may already feel ostracised. But there has got to be somewhere more appropriate than this site,” said Mr King.

The £2.5million funding, to modernise the former PRU - currently housed at March Community Education Centre - comes from the Building Schools for the Future Programme.

The funding was kept safe by the Partnerships for Schools (PFS) when the national BSF programme was ended in July

However, the PFS is set to be disbanded in March 2012 and there are fears this could see the funding lost unless the project is well progressed.

A public consultation event is being held on Monday (October 31) from 2pm to 8pm at the Queen Mary Centre in Somers Road, where people can see the plans for themselves and make comments.

A previous scheme proposed some years ago to relocate the PRU to land behind Maple Grove School in March was withdrawn following massive public objections.