School renovation project approved - despite 'alarming' £1m cost

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THE £1m renovation of a city school for 14 special needs students will go ahead, despite concerns about the 'alarming' cost.

Portsmouth City Council's education boss, Councillor Suzy Horton, this week approved the use of a £537,000 government grant to refurbish the former Harbour School in Fratton for pupils with 'significant physical or mental disabilities.'

In total the project is expected to cost £1,020,000, with additional funds coming from council reserves.

Only the ground floor of the school, which will be renamed The Lantern, will be remodelled and will serve as a temporary school for three years until a long-term solution is found.

Speaking at an education meeting on Wednesday Cllr Horton said: 'It's hard to put a value on having the kids in the city and having that provision for them. It was the right decision to make.'

But Tory education spokesman, Cllr Terry Norton, voiced some concerns. He said: 'The only thing for me is the cost, £1m is a lot if it's only going to be a three year project. Of course special educational needs are very important but I hope we can then get something back if the site is sold in the future.'

The council's deputy director for children, families and education, Mike Stoneman, explained that alternatives would be costly. 'If we didn't have provision like this the children would have to go to out of city placements, which are very expensive' he said.

'The impact on the designated schools grant would be significant as a result.'

The Lantern will open in September.