Sudbury: Autism charity registers interest in school

PUBLISHED: 08:00 31 May 2013

A soon-to-be redundant middle school building could become East Anglia's first college specifically for young adults with autism.

The independent charity, Autism Anglia, which provides care and support to around 15,000 children, adults and families affected by the disorder, has expressed its interest in taking over the Uplands Middle School building in Sudbury when it closes this summer.

Formed in 1973, the charity has offices in Essex and Norfolk and operates two schools on the Suffolk/Essex border. But although it runs extensive adult services in Suffolk, it currently has no base in the county.

Their chief executive Clive Stobbs told the EADT there are at least 7,000 people with autism in Suffolk, and that number is increasing.

He said: “We provide support for people with autism directly through our establishments, but there are many more who are going without the necessary help.

“Our school at Eight Ash Green caters for people up to the age of 18 but we feel there is a great need for education to continue after that, so we would like to set up our own college for students up to the age of 25.”

The charity has day study centres in both neighbouring counties but nothing in Suffolk. Mr Stobbs continued: “We have a family support worker funded by the county council who would benefit from a base in the county.

“The size of the Uplands Middle School building would enable us to house a college, provide a base for a Suffolk family support service, and in addition, it would give us the space to start a telephone helpline.”

The charity recently introduced an Autism Alert Card. Mr Stobbs added: “People with autism often behave erratically which sometimes leads to them being taken into custody. The idea is that when the police find the card, they call our number and we can send someone to provide support. Sudbury would be an ideal central location for that.”

Ormiston Academies Trust has also approached Suffolk County Council about the 16-acre plot and building. The trust assumed responsibility for nearby Sudbury Upper School last September and is considering taking on the school building and leasing parts to other charitable groups.

Trust chairman, Peter Murray, said: “We heard that the building was going to be demolished unless a use can be found for it. The school is in very good condition and we very much want to engage with the community to see if we can come up with a way to preserve the site and prevent it from being turned into housing.”

Sudbury town and county councillor, John Sayers, who has also been involved in talks with Autism Anglia, said: “We have lost so many significant buildings in Sudbury over the past 50 years including two cinemas. There has been far too much demolition work so we are keen to find ways of preserving the Uplands Middle School building if we can.”

A spokeswoman for the local education authority said if the county council decides to demolish the site; it will need consent from the Secretary of State.

She added: “When a county council school is due to become vacant, the first thing we do is consider any other education use for site, followed by any other potential county council use.

“Then we would look at district or borough council planning policies to see what other uses might be acceptable, and this would include potential community use.

“If disposal was approved, the final use for the site would be subject to local planning conditions which will include public consultation.”

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