New school proposed at site which cricket club wants to expand on
PUBLISHED: 17:26 17 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:26 17 July 2019
Plans for a new school for children with special educational needs have been announced - hours after a town's cricket club renewed its campaign to expand on to the same site.
As part of a £120 million investment to create 500 new SEN places in Norfolk, the county council wants to build a school on the former Fakenham Sixth Form site, off Highfield Road.
Designs and proposals for the school are being drawn up.
Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for children's services John Fisher, said: "Creating a new school on this site would bring us closer to our ambition of all children in Norfolk getting a good education, and for them to go to school as close to where they live as possible.
"A new school here would help reduce the need for many children with autism in North Norfolk to travel very long distances to get to their school.
"Doing so puts incredible pressure on families and the children in many ways, not least of which is maintaining friendships with peers in their own communities. It also increases the costs of placements and transport.
"It would also take pressure off those specialist schools and resource bases elsewhere in the county that are already doing such a great job in the face of ever-growing demand."
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Tom Fitzpatrick, county councillor for Fakenham, added: "Children and families who live in and near Fakenham already benefit from the fantastic modern learning facilities at Fakenham Academy.
"It seems fitting that the old sixth form site should continue to be used for educational purposes, and we look forward to seeing the developing plans for a specialist school."
The county council said it plans to engage with the community, and those with links to the site as planning continues.
The evening before the announcement, Fakenham Cricket Club secretary Kevin Webb spoke to the town council about leasing the land next door to the current club. They attempted to lease the land nine years ago, but the lease agreement was refused at the last possible moment.
The club had to be refunded £5000 of legal costs, and the land has remained unused since. Mr Webb told councillors: "I have lived here 30 years and never seen the field used for sport. Our third team, who are mainly younger players, currently have to play in North Elmham, ten miles away."
"Nobody has gained from this, but the council has had to pay for the area to be maintained. I think county council members should be ashamed at allowing this situation to continue."
The club had to disband its women's team in 2017 because it could not provide enough facilties for them. Mr Webb said "We had women playing in our second team who had to change in their car. Obviously, that's not right."
District councillor Christopher Cushing supports the cricket club's bid and said: "Now is a vital time given the recent cricket success in the World Cup. It adds force to the argument, and we want to take advantage of the national enthusiasm."
England and Wales Cricket Board originally agreed a £25,000 loan for the lease of the land, and are now urging young people to join clubs again.