Seashell Trust Large

Charity ‘disappointed and surprised’ after council rejects school and housing plan

Charlie Schouten

Stockport’s planning committee has refused an application by charity Seashell Trust to build a £45m school and 325 homes on a green belt site bordering the Handforth Bypass.

At a meeting last night, the committee voted seven to five to reject a hybrid planning application by the charity for a 60,000 sq ft school and 325 homes on the site, despite the scheme being recommended for approval by planning officers.

The Seashell Trust had lodged plans for the school at the site off Wilmslow Road, which would provide teaching space, a swimming pool and associated infrastructure, to replace its existing 120-capacity school at the site.

The charity provides specialist care to children and young people with autism, deafness, blindness, and those with physical and learning disabilities, and said its current 1950s buildings were “at their structural and functional limits” and “no longer meet operational needs”.

Willmott Dixon is currently on site demolishing these buildings, and it is understood the contractor was lined up to build the school facilities.

Overall, the school was expected to cost £45m, including £27m towards the school and college; £5m towards a new community centre and office for the trust; £5m for sports facilities; and £2m towards staff facilities.

To pay for the school, the Trust proposed to dispose of part of its land to the north of the campus for housing development, and submitted an outline planning application for this alongside the school. The 37-acre site is designated as green belt.

The outline application included 325 homes, around 30% of which were designated as affordable. It is understood the charity was confident of agreeing a deal with a housebuilder in the coming months to bring forward the site.

Stockport planners had recommended the scheme for approval, despite the fact the proposals were “in conflict with relevant green belt policies” in the area’s local development plan, and added the scheme would have “a detrimental impact” on the openness of the green belt and would result in “encroachment into the countryside”.

The development would also cause “significant extra demand” for local school places which “could not be readily absorbed by existing schools in the borough”.

Despite this, officers said the Trust had demonstrated “very special circumstances” to allow the project to proceed and had shown it would have “clear public benefits” and that alternative ways of delivering the school had been “fairly and reasonably discounted”.

Mark Geraghty, chief executive of Seashell Trust, said: “We are obviously very disappointed and somewhat surprised by the committee’s decision to go against the planning officers’ recommendation and refuse our application for the new school and campus at Seashell Trust.

“We have been working incredibly hard for more than two years now to answer questions asked of us by the planning team and we firmly believe we have proved beyond doubt the need for a new school and campus of this nature and the very special circumstances that allow the committee to approve the application.

“We are now going to discuss our options and decide on next steps”.

The professional team includes architect Worthington Ashworth Jackson Walker and NJL Consulting as planner. Carillion carried out a viability assessment for the project.

Your Comments

Read our comments policy here

They shouldn’t be surprised, the members don’t have the appetite for a green belt release

By Nordyne

Good decision for the community. All the local schools are full, the doctors and dentist lists are also full. So where were the children from these 325 houses going to be taught – overcrowded, cold portacabins on school fields whilst the Seashell Trust children were being taught in luxury? I’m all for SEND schools and the service they provide, but it shouldn’t be at the detriment to the other children living in the local area. The Seashell trust will have to cut its cloth accordingly like we all do.

By Cat

Supportive so long as these SEND schools are not in your backyard, Cat, that is…

By Anon

Unbelievable comment from Cat. Is she a Councillor?

By Nordyne

Cat – schools and doctors in MOST places are ‘full’. How should other people’s children be educated? Should they be forced to live in remote underpopulated places where there might be capacity?

By Sten

I suspect they will be appealing, and the Inspector will overturn the decision.

By Adam

good. the people of heald green don’t want this and want to protect the greenbelt. you haven’t even considered or asked local people. Where exactly would all these new children ( from the new house) go to school ? they are already full in the area. It was proven other schools that have been built haven’t cost anywhere near as much as 45m. its a cash grab with developers to sell on expensive houses.

it doesn’t benefit the area or locals at all.

By Jordan R

…”being taught in luxury”…spend 5 minutes there as it may humble you. What a ridiculous comment.

By Pineapple Chunks

The Seashell Trust, their consultants and SMBC’s planning team did a dreadful job in trying to push this through. The application did not prove VSC – saying it repeatedly is not proof. The financial case was pitiful. I hope they take the feedback from the meeting constructively and consider a different way forward.

By Phil

Insert generic comment about ‘yet more houses’ when (insert nimby place here) is already a traffic deathzone, doctors waiting lists are inestimable, schools are literally bursting at the seems with children etc. But don’t you dare build more homes for people here!! Those kids we’ve had can just move somewhere else!

By Same Old Housebuilder Bashing

Appeal please and go for costs! Shocking decision.

By NC

Here’s an idea, Stockport BC / government / charity provide the finance for the school element and forget about the 325 new homes on green belt land which will clog everything up ? Too simple ?

By Steve

It’s against green belt policy and will impact on views for local people on the new estate. They should find somewhere else to build the school such as a brownfield site not near us.

By Cat

Trace it through from their 2012 Transforming Lives appeal. The Seashell Trust didn’t ‘need’ to do this until someone offered them £30m for the green belt. From that point on they threatened to close down – blaming SMBC for the resulting loss of 400 jobs – unless planning permission was granted. Whilst ‘not expanding their operation’, the proposal is almost 5 times the size of SEND guidelines and contains some inexplicable requirements. Almost £3m for the site entrance?

By Phil

Steve – if that was an option, the trust would presumably have gone for it. So it’s reasonable to assume that wasn’t an option available to them.

By Sten

This protection of the GB as thought it were sacred is ridiculous. I understand that locals never want it, but its about time they stood up and admitted theyre just being NIMBY’s.

Less than 10% of the country is “urban” in fact recent figures suggested around 6%, the greenbelt is now larger than it originally was and in itself is a ridiculous policy from the 1940’s that stiffles smaller local communities for growth and forces the younger generations into rabbit hutches in the cities.

By QuaysMan

Seashell have to get the land sold because the kickback they were to get from the builders was to go towards a complex that was way over priced..
Yes! what a shame about Seashell failure to get permission to block the traffic up for miles around if they had got their way.
The houses mentioned are alongside the bypass but there is no access to it.
The 350 cars from the proposed estate have to decanter on an already very busy and at the busiest times of the day are already at standstill will up to a mile of traffic.
The house builder are the people pushing this project.

By bill

‘not near us’ in other words ‘not in my back yard’, you can’t even hide it! You don’t have a right to a nice view.

By Sten

Fantastic new school for which there is a known need and much needed housing gets refused in Green Belt nobody really uses or values. I despair and suspect Stockport’s planners are rightly tearing their hair out in the certain knowledge that this gets appealed, allowed and their department will have to bear the substantial financial costs of an Inspector considering this Planning Committee decision as ‘unreasonable’.

By Depressed Latic

‘Cats’ comments so how out of touch with what goes on at SST .I am not into building on the green belt but I cannot denie these children from being cared and educated

By Mark Molloy

Disgusting comment from ‘Cat’ – total ignorance. I agree with ‘Pineapple Chunks'(!!!) – spend an hour there and see the amazing work the Seashell Trust are doing for severely disadvantaged young people.

More nonsense about ‘Green-belt’ from the ‘nimby’ fraternity who have nothing better to do and another example of the advice of Professional Planning officers being ignored by committees made up of ‘the Butcher, Baker and Candle-stick Maker’ – time this outdated, unworkable and un-just system for Planning Approvals was changed as it is definitely NOT fit for purpose as this crazy decision clearly demonstrates.

By David Sleath

What a great shame. Seashell provide an amazing service for our local communites, and have done since the early 1830’s.

They save Stockport council thousands of £’s with facilities that they themselves can ill afford. These provisions are of massive value to a great number of families throughout South Manchester and beyond who are often at a whits end how to help their children. The most vulnerable in our society will suffer !

By David Bell

Subscribe to our newsletter