Gosport unit for troubled teenagers gets the green light

Forest School Leaders Dawn White and Sue Evans with their pupils outside the school

Picture: Habibur Rahman (180146-338)

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COUNCILLORS have unanimously approved controversial plans to build a centre for troubled teens on a Gosport primary school site.

All 13 members of Hampshire’s regulatory committee voted in favour of moving the Quayside Education Centre for excluded and emotionally vulnerable 11 to 16-year-olds to Woodcot Primary, yesterday.

After hearing arguments on both sides – as educational leaders rebutted claims by Woodcot parents that their children’s safety would be put at risk – the committee decided the £4m development should go ahead.

And they went even further, stipulating the site’s multi-use games area should not be closed off to Quayside students.

Linda Alavi, headteacher at Quayside, was ‘absolutely delighted’ with the result.

She had previously told the council chamber: ‘These are children, furthermore, they are damaged children.

‘If our children were in wheelchairs I imagine there would be no opposition.

‘Many have suffered abuse, deprivation, family instability and a range of other social instabilities.

‘We don’t serve hardened criminals.’

Other speakers including John Coughlan, the county’s director of children’s services, staked their reputation on the success of the new facility for 48 students.

The final decision was however a massive blow to parents fighting the move – especially after winning the backing of Gosport Borough Council’s planning board which concluded the site was inappropriate.

Mum Karen Headley, 44, who spoke at the meeting, said: ‘I’m disappointed, I’m going to have to find a new school for my two girls.

‘Apparently they’re the experts and we as parents and residents know nothing – that’s the message we got today. It’s insulting.

‘You can’t shut the gate after the horse has bolted. The first time there’s a serious incident at the school it will be too late.’

Cllr Roy Perry, executive lead member for children’s services, said: ‘I’m very pleased with the outcome. Now what we want to do is make a great success of Quayside.

‘Some of the worries and concerns were out of proportion. We mustn’t demonise the children who go to education centres.’

Cllr Perry said the site would be ready by September 2013.