Plans for a special education needs school in east Reading have been agreed by the council’s planning committee.

The vacant Hamilton Centre, at 135 Bulmershe Road, is set to become the new home for Phoenix College (recently renamed Hamilton School), which currently based on Christchurch Road.

The application was approved at Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) planning applications committee last night (Wednesday, February 5).

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RBC applied for planning permission after winning provisional government funding for the project, but funding is not yet confirmed.

Green Party councillor Williams said local green space should only be developed in ‘very exceptional circumstances’ but agreed with officers that this was such a circumstance.

He added: “This should be the last application that takes green space away from Alfred Sutton Playing Fields.”

Phoenix College has been busily changing this year, joining the Maiden Erlegh Trust, becoming a special academy and getting a new name – Hamilton School – all within the first month of 2020.

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The building, located near to three other schools, will be refurbished and extended to accommodate 64 students and could later be expanded to 90, with female pupils joining the current-all male college.

Councillor Jane Stanford-Beale said it is important to get on with the application.

She said: “They currently cannot accept female pupils; [This development] means some very vulnerable children will be able to go to school in the borough.”

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Grant and Merry Evans spoke to the committee in opposition to the plans.

Ms Evans said they are concerned at the loss of green space and the impact of the development on the football pitches.

Planning officer Brian Conlon said the green space lost is peripheral land that is not part of the playing pitches or running tracks.

Ms Evans also raised concerned about how the extra pupils would impact on traffic congestion.

But officers assured the committee there will be less movement compared to previous uses at the site.

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Councillor Jo Lovelock said she understands residents’ concerns but is “reassured” the space can accommodate the new school.

She said: “Frankly children that go to that school and the staff that work there deserve better than we have been able to provide.”

Cllr Tony Page, lead member for Transport, said Reading Buses would add extra capacity along the number 17 route to manage the extra numbers.

Hamilton School is a special school for young people with Social Emotional and Mental Health (SEMH) issues who have Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs).

RBC won provisional funding from the Education Skills Funding Agency’s Priority Schools Building Programme to build the school.