Controversial plans to open a free school with no playground next to one of Birmingham’s busiest shopping centres have been approved by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles.
Birmingham councillors had rejected plans saying it was an unacceptable location for a school – with the nearest playing field across the shopping centre and busy Church Road, and no catering facilities on site.
The planning committee had said that the children of Birmingham deserved better.
The East Birmingham Network, a collective of 12 schools, plans to use the office block for specialist teaching of up to 90 pupils who are ‘disengaged’ by mainstream education. A spokesman for the school said: “We are delighted to have received this approval, which allows our school to take its rightful place in the community.”
A letter from the planning inspector states: “The Secretary of State is satisfied that the proposal would not be an inappropriate use for this vacant building by reason of accessibility of outdoor play space and recreation facilities, nor would it harm the vitality and viability of the Swan Centre.”
But there was opposition from the community, particularly residents in Lily Road, where the offices are located.
Coun David Willis (Lib Dem, South Yardley) said: “We are all still agreed that this was the wrong site for a school.”
Peter Quinn, a resident of Lily Road, added: “I do believe that the school will be a failure and that it will help to bring more crime and anti-social behaviour to the area.”
The EBN’s request that its legal costs are paid by the city council was rejected by the planning inspector.