Plans to move a school from one Norfolk town to another have been defended by council leaders, in the face of criticism over the proposal.

The Fred Nicholson Complex Needs School in Dereham could be moved to a new site in Swaffham under Norfolk County Council proposals.

County Hall wants to shut the Westfield Road site in Dereham and move the school into new buildings in Swaffham's Lynn Road.

Eastern Daily Press: Fred Nicholson School in DerehamFred Nicholson School in Dereham

Education chiefs say switching towns and building a replacement school will mean 52 more specialist spaces for children aged five to 19 with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The council's Conservative-controlled cabinet agreed last week to buy land at Swaffham for the new school and consultation on the move has begun.

Eastern Daily Press: Labour county councillor Chrissie RumsbyLabour county councillor Chrissie Rumsby (Image: Labour Party)

But Labour county councillor Chrissie Rumsby raised concerns about disruption to pupils - and questioned why the existing site could not be invested in.

John Fisher, the council's cabinet member for children's services, said the council's initial plan had been to expand the existing Dereham site.

But he said: "When the proposal was looked at in more detail, it was found that the site could not support an expansion of the school."

He said the school had increased from around 99 pupils in 2008 to about 175, with extra staff to support their needs.

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

READ MORE: New Norfolk school site to cost lot of money says councillor

Mr Fisher said there had been no "significant capital investment" at the school and buildings were "not fit for purpose."

He added: "The capital project to relocate and expand the school will take some time to complete and this means families will have an opportunity to understand whether it will impact their child."

Mr Fisher said the site is a 20-minute drive from the current site and many of the children who go to Fred Nicholson are not local to the area.