Could historic building become a new school?

The village of Wetheringsett, near Stowmarket.

The village of Wetheringsett, near Stowmarket. - Credit: Archant

A rural Mid Suffolk landmark could be getting a new lease of life as a special school, if plans are approved.

The NFA Group has submitted proposals to convert the Grade II Listed Wetheringsett Manor into a school that will educate 54 youngsters with special educational needs.

The plans propose to change the manor building, which is currently used as offices and temporary accommodation for charity Serving in Mission, the cottage, former stables and two modern industrial buildings.

Education chiefs at Suffolk County Council admitted that demand for specialist places was increasing by around 18%, which prompted a new £45million plan to create more than 800 new spaces at new and existing schools.

But the council has confirmed that while it does commission some specialist placements at schools run by NFA Group’s company Acorn Care and Education, the latest development had not been commissioned by the authority.

The planning statement prepared by Cheffins on behalf of the developers said: “In devising this application due regard has been given to address the acute need within Suffolk for schools to meet special educational needs, which this facility along with others is seeking to meet.”

It said that the proposal sought to “protect the character and appearance of Wetheringsett Manor” and proposed “very little in the way of internal and external alterations”.

The report said there was “clearly a significant need for this type of facility within Suffolk” and added: “The proposal will also result in significant economic benefits in terms of local employment and the use of local businesses to supply the school.”

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The school will cater for 54 youngsters aged 11-19, and operate a teaching day of 8.45am-3.15pm.

It has been confirmed that it will not be a boarding school but pupils will arrive by minibus and taxi from a maximum travel distance of an hour’s drive.

The application is currently open for public consultation and will go to planning committee at Mid Suffolk District Councilin May or June.

Suffolk County Council has already confirmed new special schools are being planned for Ipswich, Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds, while specialist units attached to mainstream schools will be extended, creating a combined 828 places.

A spokesman from NFA Group has been approached for comment.

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