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District criticism of Fakenham special school plan

Proposals for a new school in Fakenham, which would support dozens of youngsters with autism, have been branded "disappointing" by district council officials.

County education chiefs want to build the specialist facility on the grounds of the town's former sixth form site in Wells Road.

But, while a formal planning application has now been submitted, North Norfolk District Council has raised concerns about the scheme.

In a letter published on its website, the authority insisted it did not oppose the idea of a new school.

But it said it was "regrettable" that the application did not provide detailed plans for how the existing buildings on the site might be developed, beyond a comment that they would be part of future proposals.

It added: "The proposed design is rather disappointing at face value and appears to err more towards the functional than the qualitative.

"Despite this apparent lack of visual interest, and the partial reliance on plain flat roof forms, however, the context prevents a sustainable design objection being put forward.

"The main C&D (conservation and design) concern revolves around what happens to the existing school buildings, and in particular the Grade II Listed Building which stands empty and must therefore be regarded as a Building At Risk.

"It is therefore unfortunate that there appears to be no firm plan in place for this heritage asset."

However, in documents submitted as part of the application, Norfolk County Council officials said utilising the existing buildings had been considered.

They said: "The buildings were found to be inadequate, too complicated for adaptation and unsuitable to deliver the SEN accommodation required for a 21st century learning environment."

The document also claimed that demolition of the listed building was not possible, while other solutions combining partial demolition and new development would have been too costly.

The district council, which is a consultee on the application, also raised concerns about the loss of a large oak tree to enable the proposed access to the development, as well as a reduction in green open space.

The county council will decide whether the plan should get the go-ahead at a later date.

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