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Burgess Hill Special Needs School

Exclusive - Special School Plans Revealed

9th October 2009
By Scott McCarthy

West Sussex County Council plans to burden Burgess Hill with another school following controversial plans to construct a special needs education facility on the Oakmeeds Community College campus.

The proposals for the new school, which will replace the current specialist schools serving Mid Sussex at Court Meadow, Cuckfield and Newick House, Burgess Hill, have yet to be released to the public, however Burgess Hill Uncovered has gained an exclusive look at the plans.

The new facility will be built on the east side of the current school playing fields, where the Air Training Corps base is located. The construction will also see the children's play area relocated, and the site itself swallow up the public footpath and possibly the ancient woodland that accompanies it.

Burgess Hill School Plans
Our own artists impression - The proposed plans for the special school, taking up half of the Oakmeeds field.

A hard play area, tennis courts and 11-a-side football pitch, possibly incorporating an all-weather surface, will complete the development, taking up around half of the current Oakmeeds school field, with the new sporting facilities extending so far as to pass the secondary schools 'B Block' building and the hedge that acts as a border between London Mead and Oakmeeds.

The early proposals also include a vegetable patch, new car parking areas and what can only be described as something that is large and brown, believed in some quarters to be a giant potato.

The existing entrance to London Mead will serve the new school, leaving residents understandably concerned that the already congested Chanctonbury Road will become even more of a traffic blackspot.

The road currently serves as a bus route, a route for learner drivers and as a car park for commuters who don't wish to pay for station parking. Expecting the road to take even more strain at peak times, especially with the specialist vehicles that are often required to transport special needs children who the school will serve, could be seen as bordering on insanity.

Aerial view of Oakmeeds Community College
The current Oakmeeds landscape.

With the health of teenagers due to lack of exercise being at the forefront of the nations mind, the loss of half of Oakmeeds' playing fields, including a football pitch, a cricket strip and the area that is used in the summer for the athletics track is another potential black mark against the proposals - especially if the secondary school have no use of the potential new sporting facilities on their site.

The big question remains though as to why West Sussex County Council has decided that this is the site for it to construct a new school. If residents can realise that it is going to cause more problems than it solves, one visit to the site from a highly paid and qualified planning expert from the council should be enough to instantly dismiss Oakmeeds as somewhere that can host a development of this size.

While there is no doubting that special needs facilities for children in Mid Sussex need upgrading, there are plenty of more suitable sites across the district to house such a development than an already over crowded campus hosting two schools. Adding a third onto the Oakmeeds site would be asking an already struggling infrastructure to take on a load that it will surely not be able to carry.

What do you think about Oakmeeds losing half of it's school field? Can Chanctonbury Road cope with all the extra traffic? What alternative sites for the new school would you recommend?
Let us know your thoughts by emailing
news@burgesshilluncovered.co.uk

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