Plans to put “disengaged” pupils from a dozen Birmingham secondary schools in a disused office block could be scuppered on health and safety grounds.
The East Birmingham Network (EBN), a coalition of city secondary schools, will see its plans for a free school for up to 90 troubled teenagers in a former Tesco office at the Swan Centre in Yardley return to the council’s planning committee on Thursday, August 2.
A month ago the committee condemned the school plans as there is no playground, no kitchens, it was too close to the busy A45 Coventry Road and feared that there would be an ‘unbearable’ impact on local residents.
EBN hopes to open up in September to take pupils pulled out of the 12 network member schools for specialist classes.
They rejected planning officer’s recommendation that the school could be made to work and called for more information from Ofsted as well as a legal case for refusal.
Ofsted has raised concerns over the lack of a fire risk assessment, the arrangements for evacuation including details of assembly points and the safety of those with physical disability.
A statement from Ofsted added: “Although there are some playing fields beyond the Swan Centre car park to which the school will have access on one day per week, there is no outside play area which students can access daily.”
Despite this in a report to the committee officers reluctantly set out the reasons for refusal but claim that they may not be sustained if EBN makes a legal appeal.
The report concludes: “There are no planning reasons to resist this application subject to conditions. The issues raised in relation to the fire escape and provision/accessibility to outdoor play space would fall under the control of Ofsted and the Building Consultancy.”
The officer, Justin Howell, points out the there is no requirement in planning policy for an outdoor play area and the Oaklands Recreation Ground nearby is an acceptable alternative.
He adds that the committee cannot consider the impact on the shopping centre, despite fears of anti-social behaviour being raised and that the impact of cars dropping youngsters off to school is not significant enough to stop the plan.