A SCHOOL for autistic children could be up and running in Bromsgrove by January after councillors unanimously approved the plans - despite being advised otherwise.

The Advertiser reported last week how council officers had recommended refusal for the plans for a school on Lokrum Fields, Copyholt Lane, near Stoke Pound.

However, the matter was 'called-in' by Councillor Malcolm Glass to be decided by the planning committee, who were universally in favour of the scheme.

Cllr Glass, of the Avoncroft ward, told the Advertiser: "This type of specialist school is very much needed - there isn't anything like it in Worcestershire.

"At the moment, the county council has to pay up to £25,000 per child to send them to a similar school or a residential school in other parts of the country.

"So this school will save the county council a lot of money and it is better for the children because it is not too far away from home. It is a much-needed facility.

"It's a very positive thing for the area and we are absolutely delighted to have it in Bromsgrove and to be able to help these children and their parents."

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

The proposals received 135 letters of support but officers were concerned over development on Green Belt land and poor transport links.

However, the applicant, Alison Chalmers, argued the school would use buildings that already exist and the small number of pupils would make transport issues negligible.

An online petition - believed to have been set up by a parent of an autistic child - supporting the scheme attracted almost 1,600 signatures in just a few days.

Cllr Glass added: "These children cannot cope with being in a normal school with 500-600 other pupils. It would give them anxiety.

"A lot of schools have facilities for children with autism but the children suffer in that environment - they are bored. They are highly intelligent kids who need to be pushed.

"The other alternative is to be schooled at home but that is not ideal because they miss the social aspect, the opportunity to mix with others.

"They need to be in a different environment which Lokrum Fields will fulfil."

The proposals were passed on the condition that should the school cease to operate, the buildings would be returned to residential use.

Cllr Glass said: "We included that condition because we did not want someone coming in with bigger ideas for the site."