A new special educational needs and disability (SEND) school in Romford has been given the green light.

Councillors on Havering’s strategic planning committee on February 24 unanimously approved a new school on the existing St Edward’s Academy site in London Road.

The new building, which has just over 2,000sqm of floorspace, will be built primarily on overflow car parking space, but will also encroach on Westland’s Playing Fields.

Permission to build on the playing fields, which lie within the Green Belt and the Thames Chase Community Forest area, had previously been given to build a new ground for Romford Football Club; this permission has since lapsed.

The non-selective school will be operated by Unity Schools Partnership, which also runs St Edward’s, and will have capacity for 60 pupils of primary and secondary school age with social, emotional and mental health difficulties and autistic spectrum condition.

The proposals had been recommended for approval by planning officers, with case officer Raphael Adenegan told the committee that the applicant had demonstrated the “acute need for a specialist SEND school within the borough and there being no alternative sequentially preferable site”.

The new development will feature 12 classrooms with associated calm rooms and include a multi-use hall, which will be available to the wider community outside school hours.

The front of the building, including the main entrance and shared spaces, will feature cement board screen cladding, with the rest of the structure clad with wood.

Plans also include 16 car parking spaces, two disabled bays and space for 10 cycles.

Cllr Graham Williamson said the “very exceptional circumstances outweigh the harm to the Green Belt”, but expressed concern that not enough parking spaces had been allotted to staff.

Assistant director of planning Helen Oakerbee admitted there were “more staff than there are car parking spaces”, but said there was “intentions" that "some would car share”.

Cllr Reg Whitney raised concerns the development could justify building high-density housing on this part of the Green Belt in future.

Ms Oakerbee assured him: “There would be an awful lot of hoops to jump through."