St Helens Borough Council’s planning committee has given the green light on the redevelopment of a maintained special school which will improve the educational experience of some of the borough’s most vulnerable pupils.
In September 2020, the council’s cabinet approved plans to relocate Penkford School in Wharf Road, Newton-le-Willows, to the former Red Bank Education Unit site as part of a £6.8m development for a new 65 place school.
A planning application was submitted by St Helens Borough Council last December to develop the site, with proposals including the extension of the existing building to create a more therapeutic learning environment, incorporating new learning spaces as well as a dining and multipurpose sports hall.
Improvements will also see a new playing field, sports pitch, car park, fences, and amended access from Winwick Road.
The application was unanimously approved at yesterday afternoon’s (25 May) first in-person planning committee for more than a year.
Welcoming the decision, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Business, Councillor Kate Groucutt, said:
“As a council we are committed to ensuring that all children can have their educational needs met in a supportive environment with buildings and facilities that are fit for purpose.
“Pupils at Penkford face considerable challenges in life and they need and deserve a better environment which will support them and help them to thrive as we look to achieve one of our key priorities of ensuring all children and young people in St Helens Borough have the best possible start in life.
“The relocation of the school will also allow us to make further improvements to the area around Sankey Valley and the Nine Arches. Following significant investment in recent years, the area is now a popular walking and cycling destination for people from Newton-le-Willows and further afield.”
Commenting on how much of a difference the redevelopment will make to the lives of pupils, Anne Kyle, Headteacher of Penkford School, said:
“After what has been an especially difficult year with the death of our much-loved special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) teacher, Mrs Jackson, we are all delighted that this plan has been approved.
“A new school will benefit the social, emotion and mental health needs (SEMH) children of St Helens with a new space to learn, grow and develop. Our old building has out-lived its use, and we have lots of exciting new areas of the curriculum and subjects we will be able to offer our pupils with the new building.
“We will have a dedicated sports hall, something we have never had, and children with ADHD and other SEND needs will really benefit from this.
“We can’t wait to move in.”
Work on the new school is expected to start later this year.