Ironbridge classroom plan withdrawn after 'overwhelmingly high' number of objections

A not-for-profit organisation has withdrawn plans to build classrooms for disadvantaged young people because of “overwhelmingly high” levels of objection among the project’s would-be neighbours.

Residents in Hodge Bower, Ironbridge, objected to the plan. Photo: Google.
Residents in Hodge Bower, Ironbridge, objected to the plan. Photo: Google.

Earlier this month the Really NEET Project applied for permission to place the wooden eco-cabins, that also housed offices, behind an existing house in Ironbridge, and had the backing of Telford & Wrekin’s culture and wellbeing chief.

Sophie Maxwell, the founder and director of the organisation that has helped more than 800 young people with special needs and other challenges, has now terminated the bid.

In a letter to the council’s planning department, she explained that continuing would “frustrate” the community and leave its young people “feeling further ostracised”.

The plans also included moving an existing house to make the access route wider and safer.

In a letter of support, the council's culture and wellbeing services manager Psyche Hudson said she had been briefed on the plans and the organisation’s work.

“Understanding the impact culture and creativity has on wellbeing and community engagement, this project will undoubtedly enhance and improve the life chances of the young people involved,” she wrote.

In a statement accompanying the application, Ms Maxwell said she set up the project 10 years ago, motivated by her own experience of being NEET [not in education, employment or training] and homeless while a teenager.


“Many of the young people accessing our programmes have multiple complex challenges to engagement, alongside their special educational needs – barriers such as homelessness, being a looked-after child, mental health, being a young parent and experience of domestic violence just to name a few,” she added.

“The land at Hodge Bower would enable us to build our eco-cabin classrooms which will include a practical countryside skills room, a functional woodwork shop and a maths and English classroom, as well as being able to develop and onsite allotment.”

The plans were submitted on February 5 and withdrawn 20 days later. In that time, residents of Hodge Bower and nearby Woodlands Road submitted 15 objections.

Many raised concerns that the site was accessed via a private, unadopted road that residents had paid to maintain, and that the development would increase its use. Others also pointed out that the route was narrow and included a blind junction.

Some raised concerns about ground stability, but the Coal Authority, which were also consulted, had no objection.

Ms Maxwell’s withdrawal letter said: “The level of objection from local residents has been overwhelmingly high and we feel like proceeding with the application in direct opposition to what the local residents wish would be the wrong thing to do.

“Our project is about bringing together communities and supporting young people to feel included as part of wider society.

“We had a vision that this land could benefit the young people and the community but we believe that continuing would actually leave the community feeling frustrated and our young people feeling further ostracised.”

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