PROPOSALS for a school for autistic children on Green Belt land between Redditch and Bromsgrove have been recommended for refusal by planning chiefs next week.

Despite 135 letters of support for the plans – at a site on Copyholt Lane, near Stoke Pound – officers have recommended the project be rejected by Bromsgrove District Council’s planning committee.

Councillors will discuss the scheme on Monday (August 5) but officers disapprove of the plans on the basis of concerns over Green Belt development and poor transport links.

The applicant, A Chalmers, says the setting would benefit youngsters with autism, adding: “It is widely accepted that spending time outdoors and interacting with nature can be beneficial for people who suffer with anxiety.”

They admitted the site would not be accessible by public transport but added: “We are very conscious of environmental issues and have sought to mitigate this lack by proposing a minibus service and staff car sharing.”

The scheme proposes to convert an extended bungalow and associated buildings into a three-classroom non-residential independent school for 18 children with autism, plus ten staff members.

A stable would be used for sports but officers pinpointed a planned car park as one of the main issues with the development.

They said: “Given the extent of the hard surface for the car park and the presence of parked cars in this area would appear as a visual incursion and… encroach into the countryside contrary to the five purposes of the Green Belt.”

The officers’ report concluded: “While officers fully appreciate that there is a need for this facility for children in the Bromsgrove area, the application is considered to be inappropriate development within the Green Belt.”

The planning application states that Worcestershire County Council intends to develop its own specialist Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) provision through a free school bid to the government.

It adds that the county council already has a higher dependency on independent schools than most local authorities and plans to invest in local state-funded provision rather than the private sector.

WCC, acting in its role as Highway Authority, also says ‘there would be an unacceptable impact on highway safety and reliance on car access, [thus it] would be an unsustainable development’.

However, the letters of support backing the project say ‘parents are in great need of alternative provision for children for whom mainstream school is not an option’.

Another letter highlighted the gap in education in Worcestershire for children with autism, while one parent claimed their son had been forced to attend a residential school in Cheshire due to the lack of a local facility.