COUNCILLORS have backed plans for a new £2.5m school facility for children with special educational needs.

Cumbria County Council's development control and regulation panel unanimously approved the proposals for the school facility for pupils yesterday.

It will cater to children with social, emotional or mental health difficulties and will be situated at the bottom of Edgehill Road in the Harraby area of Carlisle.

Known as Alternative Provision, the schools are a key part of the county council’s work to ensure all children have the best possible education and support.

Currently there is a lack of suitable school places for these children and many have to travel out of county to receive an education, sometimes living away from home.

Richard Cryer, lead officer in Cumbria County Council's Development Control team, told the meeting: "This is an application for an alternative education provision building.

"It is essentially a facility to allow young people who cannot attend mainstream schools, for a variety of reasons, to access specialist provision for their needs. That is the rationale behind this scheme overall."

Mr Cryer outlined that the site is allocated for residential development in the latest Carlisle Local Plan, but that after consideration it was found that the erection of this school would still allow for homes to be built on the site.

He said the number of houses would reduce by less than one per cent if the site was to built and that it was the County Council's view that the benefits of the school outweigh this reduction in space for housing.

Parking concerns were raised by councillors John Mallinson and Paul Turner, with Mr Cryer reassuring councillors that provision was more than adequate for the expected use by vehicles.

Space for 19 vehicles is included in the plan. A one-way system for vehicles will see motorists enter from the left and exit to the right.

Outdoor sports facilities will also be built on the site.

"It is considered given the size of the building, it is mainly single-storey, most of the properties there are residential, it is going to be highly visible but it is going to compliment the area," Mr Cryer outlined.

The site does not have a history of flooding, the officer added.

In recent years, the number of children and young people requiring this type of education has increased, particularly in the Carlisle and Barrow areas. The site will cater to 40 pupils. A similar site will also be built between the Dock Museum and Furness College in Barrow.