Councillors will discuss a planning application to create a therapy and education centre for children with complex physical and mental needs at Quex in Birchington.
A planning committee meeting tomorrow (February 14) will include proposals for The Llewellyn School Retreat to move from its current base in Margate to land at Quex Park.
The school is run by Sara Llewellyn with her husband Phillip from their home in Cliffe Avenue, Margate. Increasing demand for school places has resulted in the couple looking for a larger site.
Royal School for Deaf Children
Sarah set up the school to provide education for her own son and other children in a similar situation since the closure of the Royal School for the Deaf in December 2015 after The John Townsend Trust, which ran it, went into administration.
She set up a temporary school in her garden but with a waiting list and regular referrals there is a need to expand.
The school building at Quex will initially take 20 children and 15 staff. After a period of 5 years a phase 2 would be considered which would involve the addition of further classrooms.
The children who will attend have complex conditions such as cerebral palsy, very rare chromosome abnormalities, difficultly swallowing, visually impairment and hearing impairment and often a combination of conditions.
They will receive therapies to enhance their quality of life such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, horse riding therapy, art therapy, play therapy and cooking therapy. The desired outcomes for these children include increased mobility, improved life skills and communication skills, including speech and signing as well as achieving physical milestones.
Part of the garden at the new school site will be designed with disabled swings and other play equipment accessible to disabled children. A scheme is envisaged where access to the disabled play equipment could be provided outside of “school / retreat” hours for disabled children in the community, on application and with access gained by a fob system. A hydrotherapy unit may also be provided.
The proposed site is currently grazing land close to the estate’s Secret Garden Nursery.
In documents to committee members the planning officer says: “The applicant has submitted a number of letters highlighting the need for the facilities and the submitted design and access statement notes that this demand has come from the closure of the Royal School for the Deaf in Margate and that the current premises are at capacity and they are having to turn children away.
“It is acknowledged that an identified need exists for special education needs facilities following the closure of the Royal School for the Deaf. The proposed education and therapy use on the site is considered to be acceptable given the local need for the proposed development and its associated social benefits.
“The principle of this use is therefore considered to be acceptable, subject to other material considerations such as the impact upon the character and appearance of the area, neighbouring living conditions and highway safety.”
The recommendation is for members to approve the application.