A VACANT youth centre will now be used to support children with special educational needs after plans were approved by the council’s planning board.

The Athersley Youth Centre, based on Newstead Road in Athersley North, is currently disused and plans - submitted in June - have been given the go-ahead.

Barnsley Council announced its SEND plan earlier this year, stating that in order to improve the service they offer, they will ensure there are sufficient places to meet the needs of youngsters in the right way in their local schools.

A planning report states: “The local authority and its statutory partners have an increasing demand for school places for children and young people with SEND.

“They have an obligation to ensure these children have access to the right type of school placement which best meets their needs, that is within their community and is closer to home.

“This includes those who have been categorised as having needs relating to social, emotional, and mental health; autism and/or speech, language, and communication needs.

“It is essential that children and young people with SEND do not have to travel out of the borough to have their educational needs met through early identification and support, in parallel with improvements to the quality and efficiency of education, health and care plan processes.”

Now the application has been approved, Waterton Academy Trust - who submitted the plans - will now look to refurbish the site which will lead to the creation of up to 30 schoolchildren.

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The report added: “Athersley Youth Centre is presently vacant and is not currently registered as an asset of community value, nor is the council aware that a bid has been received to transform the centre into such an asset.

“As part of the local authority’s objective of ensuring children and young people with SEND have access to a placement which best meets their needs closer to home, the proposal in this application is to develop and commission provision at the former Athersley Youth Centre.

“This will lead to the creation of up to 30 additional Key Stage Two places for children and young people with SEND, autism,

communication and interactions needs over two academic years 22/23 and 23/24 (up to 15 in the first academic year, increasing by up to a further 15 for the next academic year to 30, dependant on needs of the children), who will be able to access a specialist education curriculum to meet their individual needs.

“This will provide education places for children, identified with complex needs and who will require access to the specialist curriculum predominantly supported by supplementary teaching and specialist learning assistance.”

It’s hoped that the new facility will ensure youngsters aren’t forced into settings out of the borough, or which are financially straining.

“Based on current need and consultations for school places, the development of these places will ensure that these children and young people are not placed in high-cost special school settings or out of borough,” the report said.

“This is because continual long-term dependence on such provision is not financially or otherwise favourable as a long-term sustainable option when viewed against steadily rising increase in needs for these cohorts of children and young people.”