Special school in pipeline at HMS Forest Moor site

A FORMER Navy communications base in Nidderdale will become a school for children with behavioural difficulties if a plan goes ahead.

North Yorkshire County Council is seeking planning permission to turn the HMS Forest Moor site in Darley into the west of the county’s special school for children with behaviour, emotional and social difficulties.

Plans to turn Forest Moor into a medium secure psychiatric unit were refused at a planning meeting last month, for reasons including light pollution, visual impact and effects on neighbouring residents.

The initial application for the psychiatric unit had been submitted by Partnership in Care in October 2004, but a series of High Court appeals and Court of Appeal reviews delayed progress.

Guy Middleton, from Menwith with Darley Parish Council, said the county council’s new application was excellent news.

“I’m very keen for it, because it does a lot of positive things for the area,” he said.

“The buildings will be used for a suitable purpose, there will be no environmental impact and hopefully this will also bring employment to the area.”

Coun Middleton said the scheme had been embraced by local people.

“Everything I have encountered has been very positive,” he said.

Jose Taylor, from the Residents for the Protection of Nidderdale, said her group would be looking at the application in great detail.

"Our biggest worry with something like this is that while the application is for a change of use, we have seen this happen before,” he said.

"It gets the change of use but then tries to work its way up to a medium secure unit.

"We want to make sure that the council will not let the change of use develop into a medium secure unit at a later date."

The proposal, for a change of use from a former Royal Navy communications base to a residential school for children with behavioural, emotional and social difficulties, would include no physical alterations to the buildings’ dimensions.

The planning application is likely to be determined by the borough council by March 9.

A council officer said the scheme’s fate would probably be decided by the head of planning services, either acting on his own or in consultation with the planning committee chairman.

Forest Moor was established as an Army intelligence site in 1943, designed to covertly intercept enemy radio messages.

It opened in 1960 as a communication centre for the Navy.