Sheffield free school head vows to get planning decision overturned

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A FREE SCHOOL head teacher has said she is confident of getting a decision overturned after councillors turned down plans to provide it with a permanent home on the business park where it opened in September.

The Chapeltown Academy sixth form has been set up in a former office building at Hydra Business Park, in Sheffield, with permitted development rights meaning it did not need planning permission in its first year.

However its plans to use a neighbouring warehouse building as a permanent base have been rejected by Sheffield City Council despite the application being recommended for approval by planning officers.

Members of the authority’s planning and highways committee were reported to be concerned about the safety of pupils attending a school in a business park and about the loss of industrial land.

The decision could potentially leave the new school without a home from this September. But the school’s head teacher Rebecca Maxted said the academy was confident that they would get the decision overturned.

She added: “We have had issues before and we have overcome them and I am sure we will with this. No parents have called me with any concerns since the decision was taken.”

Chapeltown Academy opened last year offering a range of traditional academic subjects at A-level. It currently had 56 pupils in year 12. It has 150 spaces in each of its two year groups and expects to be at capacity within three years.

Last year the Labour MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge Angela Smith urged ministers not to support plans for the free school which she described as “risky”, not needed and not locally driven.

The MP also questioned the site on Hydra Business Park which she said was unsuitable, during a Westminster Hall debate about the school proposal.

However this was challenged by the school’s director of education Ali Jaffer who said he had developed the bid for the school after working as teacher in the North of Sheffield and seeing the demand for a sixth form focused on academic subjects in that area.

Speaking to the The Yorkshire Post last year he described the school’s site as one of the project’s strengths adding: “We are very excited about the architects plans to create a bespoke school space.”

Now these plans have been turned down but the school is expected to appeal.