TWO Wiltshire special schools are to close to make way for a new £35m centre of excellence.

St Nicholas and Larkrise special schools will shut for the new facility at Rowde.

Wiltshire Council cabinet members voted unanimously to approve the one special school plan, which will 220 extra school places provided by 2023.

Parents spoke passionately both for and against the plan with families from St Nicholas in Chippenham and Larkrise in Trowbridge schools campaigning outside.

Parent Melissa Loveday said: “We feel patronised. The council has rehashed its one-school proposal.

"Our petitions signed by 7,500 people each is staggering evidence of the feeling of the public keeping the school in their communities and has been ignored.

"Our fight is not standing in the way of progress but ensuring things are done right.”

Amy Bates speaking on behalf of governors at St Nicholas' School said: “The paper focuses too strongly on value for money rather than providing diversity and choice.

"The majority of issues ignore parental choice.”

Some parents at Rowdeford praised the location and community feel the school currently has there. One mum became emotional as she told councillors of her son James’s progress since joining the school.

The centre is set to have a specific medical centre with paediatric nurses described by cabinet member for children Laura Mayes as “absolutely key”.

Larkrise and St Nicholas will now stay open until the new school has been completed and it is deemed appropriate for the children to change locations.

A new management team will take over all three schools by September 2021.

Headteacher of Rowdeford School Mike Loveridge spoke in support of the new site, adding: “Rowdeford parents believe outstanding provision is most important.

"A lot of parents said they would rather travel for outstanding services than one that is less on the doorstep. I am deeply concerned about the length of time this consultation has taken and hope we can press on with what is most important, support for the children.”

Cllr Bridget Wayman added: “We are not looking to institutionalise them by putting them out into the sticks, that is really not what we want to do. We want to offer the best and safest spaces and this is best achieved through a campus of small classrooms.”

Cllr Mayes said: “This is about investment in inclusion and not at all about saving money.

"We have to make a decision for every child with SEND for now and in the future.”