David Sprason Balances the scales over Ashmount Special School decision

Plans for a new £9.4m state-of-the-art Ashmount Special school based on the Charnwood College campus in Loughborough took one step closer to reality today, after County planners unanimously agreed the proposals.

The application will now go to the Secretary of State for his approval, after Sport England (a statutory consultee) raised objections about a potential loss of playing fields. The Secretary of State can either call-in the application for enquiry or choose not to intervene in the local process. This decision usually takes 21 days.

Acting deputy leader of the County Council, David Sprason, said, “I am delighted that County planners have approved these plans. It is a long standing manifesto commitment that we’ve had to provide Loughborough with this long-awaited facility. I hope that the Secretary of State will choose not to intervene and allow us to get on with the project.”

Concern was raised, however, when local member Max Hunt (Lab) appeared on  BBC East Midlands Today (22/8/12) complaining about “done deals” and apparently suggesting that planners would “roll over” to approve plans, appearing to speak on behalf of Charnwood College governors. Cllr Hunt has since distanced himself from his own comments saying he “regretted” the editorial content of the BBC East Midlands Today piece and confirmed he was speaking from a personal viewpoint as local member.

David Sprason says, “We are keen to overcome Sport England’s concerns because we believe this application will create sporting facilities fit for future Paralympians. This £9.4 m special school will include disabled sports facilities open to other school and the general public- including a hydrotherapy pool, a sports hall, climbing wall and a new all-weather pitch. Taken together, this will enhance sporting facilities available and I cannot think of a better Paralympic legacy than to create these much needed disabled sporting facilities in Loughborough.”

There is broad support from Governors, parents and the County Council are fully behind this project. I think it would be a massive own goal if we don’t go ahead with this excellent school. After all, we currently spend around £1.6m per year funding out of county SEN school placements. Ashmount will save this expenditure and be an excellent investment for the future.”