A free school for children and young people with additional needs could be built on playing fields in Wallington, as the contentious proposals enter consultation.

The Futures Academy, proposed to be built on Sheen Way Playing Fields, would provide specialist education for 246 children and young people with additional needs, aged between five and 19.

Carew Academy, in Church Road, would then be shut before the new school is opened some time during the 2020/21 academic year under the Orchard Hill College and Academy Trust (OHCAT).

OHCAT says extending entry this way would support children with additional needs to “achieve more fully” because of access to specialist intervention and teaching from an early age through to post-16.

Although a consultation period was launched on May 8, with public meetings scheduled for next month, serious concerns have been raised – both by residents and councillors.

Beddington North councillor Jillian Green says she supports the need for a new school, but believes Sheen Way Playing Fields is not an appropriate location.

“Let me make this very clear,” she said in a blog post entry. “I absolutely support the need for a new school but I think the children deserve better than being bussed into an estate with narrow streets and receiving their education next to a railway line [near Waddon station], industrial units and residential housing.

Cllr Green claims some parents don’t want their children at the new school because of longer journey times, adding: “The children, staff and parents deserve a much better open site with easy access via roads and public transport.”

Fellow Beddington North councillors Tim Foster and Nick Mattey echo her sentiments as well, believing an alternative site for the school should be found instead.

The Government’s Department for Education (DfE) previously agreed to provide a special educational needs (SEN) school for the Orchard Hill Trust, while the Sutton Local Plan has earmarked Sheen Way Playing Fields for future redevelopment.

A planning application will be submitted to Sutton Council this summer, though an exact date has not yet been confirmed.

OHCAT says the proposed free school is “urgently needed” to help provide additional spaces to support more students with additional needs in Sutton.

However, serious concerns over the proposals include the potential of routing construction traffic through nearby Fiveways, next to Morrisons supermarket.

Some fear that, if the DfE gets approval, then that could “upset wildlife” as trees, shrubs and other foliage could be removed to make way.

Cllr Green believes it might come through Highview Estate, in which case this may amount to problems including noise, parking and traffic.

Another contentious issue is parking – the prospect of an additional 100 spaces post-construction for teachers and staff, in a “very small area”, might increase strain.

But OHCAT stresses the plans are still in the consultation stages, with the current one running until June 25.

The public meetings will be held at The Cricket Centre, in Plough Lane, Wallington (SM6 8JQ) on June 13 and 14.

The one on June 13 runs from 6pm to 8pm, while the other on the following day goes from 9.30am to 11.30am.

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