Angry accusations over Hatfield special school

PUBLISHED: 17:00 16 February 2014

cllr Paul Zukowskyj

cllr Paul Zukowskyj

Archant

Angry critics have accused County Hall of “deception” and “bully-boy tactics” over the future of a school for pupils with special needs.

cllr Dreda Gordon outside the former South field School sitecllr Dreda Gordon outside the former South field School site

A county council education committee has approved a request by governors at Southfield School to stay in its new buildings on a former playing field off Woods Avenue, rather than return to Travellers Lane, where a huge waste incinerator is planned.

Because Government guidelines protect playing fields, a five-year time limit was originally specified in planning permission for the new buildings, where the school opened in September.

Youngsters with autism and other medical conditions are taught at Southfield.

But after hearing from officers the headteacher was very happy with the school’s new home.

Last week’s committee agreed to support a permanent move.

Opposition councillors voted against it, arguing the council was using underhand tactics to dodge criticism of the loss of playing fields and the traffic impact.

Lib Dem Paul Zukowskyj, who represents Hatfield South, fumed: “I will fight this as far as I can.

“This kind of devious and underhand approach is what gives politicians a bad name.

“If you want to instil trust in residents, don’t do this.

“This is what my residents expected to happen right from the start.”

Labour councillor Dreda Gordon, a former teacher at the school, said although she did not want it to operate next to a waste incinerator, the council was using “bully-boy tactics”.

But director of education Justin Donovan rejected the accusations, protesting it was the first time in 10 years he had been accused of lying.

He said refusing the application would have been the “easy thing to do”, but he had witnessed how the new buildings were ideal for autistic children, and creating links with nearby schools.

He said: “Purely on educational grounds, this is something we ought to support.”

The committee voted to ask the cabinet to back the move, although it may need the borough council to change planning guidance.

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