SEN school proposed in Knowsley

Plans for a secondary-level special educational needs school on a former riding school site in Roby have been lodged by operator Witherslack Group.

Witherslack runs the adjacent primary-level SEN Lakeside School on Naylor’s Road, close to Childwall Golf Club.

Working with architect C4 Projects, the applicant has put together a plan to demolish old farm buildings once associated with the Wheathill Riding School, which is no longer operational.

The site will then see the development of a school that will house up to 60 pupils. The plans also include a multi-use games area.

The Lakeside primary school, which has been open since 2001, has a capacity of 34 pupils, with 32 full-time and 17 part-time staff.

Witherslack said that the school would allow children to progress beyond primary education in a familiar setting, with a glazed link created to provide direct access between the two schools. That would effectively make the project an extension and allow staff to circulate as SEN schools require a high staff-to-pupil ratio.

As the secondary school sits behind the primary from Naylor’s Road, the existing frontages should remain free of substantial new development.

Road access will be from the existing entrance apron, adjacent to the existing track serving the riding school site, with infrastructure to be improved as part of the project.

Roby School 3

View north showing the new school, from the existing school’s roof. Credit: Planning documents

C4’s design and access statement said that due to the rural Green Belt nature of its immediate surroundings, massing has been split so that single-storey elements are closer to the highway and double-storey to the rear.

Cushman & Wakefield is the planning consultant for the project, with The Plant Room advising on landscape design. Optima Highway Solutions is advising on highways issues. Application documents state that the volume of new buildings will total less than two-thirds that of the buildings to be replaced

Taken as a whole, the full 4.2-acre site has been a farmstead since around 1800, with the Lakeside primary school now housed in the main historic farmhouse.

An application to demolish the other main building, a barn, was approved in 2016. Plans had been refused, but then approved on appeal, to build 18 houses on this part of the site. Those plans never advanced.

At pre-application meetings, Knowsley stressed that given the site’s Green Belt status, the applicant must demonstrate the “very special circumstances” that make the scheme desirable, in this case, the success of Lakeside primary and the reduction of the overall building volume. Knowsley also emphasized a preference for a simple materials palette and added that boundary screening would be essential.

The Witherslack Group is a large provider of specialist education and care for children across the UK, operating 18 schools, 19 children’s homes, four vocational training centres and seven integrated children’s homes and learning centre facilities.

Roby School 5

CGI of the new school from the playground. Credit: Planning documents

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