A new school for children with autism will be built in Kingston in a move praised for addressing a “shortage” of specialist school places in the borough.

The school will be run by charity Ambitious about Autism for up to 104 students from primary school age to sixth form. 

Kingston Council’s planning committee unanimously approved the proposal last night (May 26).

The council had already leased part of the Moor Lane Centre site in Chessington to the Department of Education (DfE) to build the school, but was awaiting planning permission for the full go-ahead.

The school will employ 60 full-time staff members.

Councillors focussed on the school’s ability to meet the “shortage” of school places for children with special educational needs in Kingston.

Lib Dem councillor Amir Ali Khan asked: “So the school will be meeting the needs of 100 plus children – how far does that go in addressing the shortage or lack of spaces for that group of children?”

Barry Lomax, head of development management, replied: “At the moment some of this need will be met out of the borough which of course is a constraint on the public purse.

"This proposal would meet the needs of the borough in the borough to enable children who are Kingston residents to be educated in a Kingston school, so it would take the pressure off having to take children farther afield.”

Lib dem councillor Liz Green said: “We have a lot of children and young people with autistic needs that are, I do know this, mostly educated out of borough because we have no specific autistic school although we do have provision within other mainstream schools in the borough for autism.”

She added: “It would be a significant help to those 104 pupils because while there is also the public purse and the cost of sending children out, it’s also about friendship groups for those children and being educated and not sitting… on minibuses for hours on end to head to somewhere in the middle of Surrey or into London or wherever.”

Mr Lomax said there were some disadvantages with the application, particularly the loss of open space.

But he said this was balanced by the “great weight to give to the needs for schools to be created”. 

He said: “First and foremost, the local authority has an obligation, a statutory duty, to provide educational places for the borough’s residents.

"This proposal would clearly meet a need, as set out in the papers, for a specific type of special educational need and disabilities school.”

Ambitious about Autism is a national charity founded by a group of parents in 1997 for autistic children and young people.

A statement submitted with the plans says the charity’s “overarching aim is that all autistic children and young people have an excellent and inclusive education that enables them to learn, thrive and achieve”. 

The school is set to open in 2023, with full capacity expected to be reached in 2029.