The construction of a fourth new school for children with special educational needs is going to require spending "a lot of money" because of difficulties over securing the site, a leading councillor has warned.

Norfolk County Council has built three new schools for children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) since agreeing to borrow £120m in 2018/19 - but finding a site for a fourth school has proved difficult.

Newly-built schools in Easton, Fakenham and Great Yarmouth have helped to counter a shortage in spaces for SEND children, but the council's hopes of getting a fourth school up and running have been hampered.

Eastern Daily Press: John Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's servicesJohn Fisher, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services (Image: Norfolk County Council)

And, at a recent meeting of the county council's scrutiny committee, John Fisher, the council's cabinet member for children's services said it was proving tricky to find a suitable site.

Mr Fisher said: "We are now desperately seeking and trying to find a fourth site and a fifth site.

"Places for school sites for special schools - they do not come as part of a new build programme like a normal school, [where] if we're building 1,000 homes there's a plot of land set aside with the planners for that school.

"SEN schools, unfortunately, do not come within that criteria, so we have to locate, identify and purchase a site.

"At the March cabinet, there's two issues coming up at that, which will actually identify we have got to spend a lot of money on a site for our fourth or fifth special school.

"We can't just say we've got £120m, we're going to build four schools and in 18 months' time there's four schools built."

The county council said it had a new six-year Local First Inclusion programme to improve educational support for SEND children and an important part of that programme was to build two more special schools.

A spokesperson said: "The special schools built at Fakenham and Great Yarmouth were built on land already owned by the council but we need to buy suitable land for some of our other plans in development.

"This involves cost for purchasing the land which will inevitably be more lengthy, involving a number of negotiations and processes including ensuring a fair price is paid for any land purchased with public money."

The council said some of the £120m was still available to go towards the new schools.

New school opens

One of the new schools - The Bridge Easton School - has just opened and welcomed its first 50 children.

Eastern Daily Press: A new school for children with special educational needs has opened at EastonA new school for children with special educational needs has opened at Easton

The 170-capacity school, run by Bridge MAT, is for young people aged four to 19, with learning and cognition needs and/or autism.

Headteacher Heidi Philpott said: "Teachers have been training together for the last two weeks and were so excited to welcome the first children to this fantastic school.

"Our school aims to provide a truly nurturing environment which meets the individual needs of each child, supporting their development through a bespoke curriculum and package of care.

"Working in partnership with families, the wider community and other education, health and care professionals are very important to ensure our pupils have the most successful journey through our school with the broadest opportunities possible.

"But, most important, we will be a school which is welcoming and where everyone can be themselves; children always come first."