A DERELICT site which has laid vacant since 1985 is set to be given a new lease of life.

Ambitious proposals have been approved which will see a new school being built on land at Channelside, off Ironworks Road in Barrow, for children with social, emotional and mental health needs. The site has been levelled and a promenade added to attract investors - but no suitable bid has come forward.

Now, it is hoped the alternative education school could open its doors to the first children in 2022. Despite concerns for security, drainage and native animal habitats, Cumbria County Council's development control committee voted unanimously to get the project off the ground. County councillor Kevin Hamilton, the mayor of Barrow, was full of praise for the new alternative education school. He said: “Can I just say that this will be a first class school. Compared to where the alternative provision school is now, which is currently in a housing complex, this will be spot on for the kids.” Cllr Bill McEwan, who represents Ormsgill, was also eager to get the project started. He said: “Some of these young people with extra needs do need a facility for their education. I look forward to this project getting going.”

A report prepared for councillors said: "The proposed scheme represents an opportunity to allow development of part of this site in a sustainable manner and also to provide a facility which will support a strategy educational need in the local area.

"There has been careful consideration in terms of site selection during the process of identifying a suitable location for this unit.

"It was considered that this site represented the best solution in terms of access for the identified group of users and that the site is located in a highly accessible and sustainable location.

"Other alternative sites were discounted due to planning constraints or that they would not offer easily accessible provision for the locally identified need.

"I consider this is a strong case to justify the need to locate the building at this particular site." Richard Cryer, the development control officer for the county council, sought to reassure concerns over drainage and the impact on natural wildlife. He said: “United Utilities have revised their response to drainage concerns. They say they will install an interceptor in the parking area to control the flow of surface water runoff. “Landscaping should encourage native wildlife to stay on site and we will look at fencing and gates at a later stage.” Councillors were informed that the new school will support up to 25 young people with social, emotional and mental health needs. The application said the school has to be able to change use throughout its lifetime of approximately 60 years, with the option to extend the building if pupil numbers grow. The UK has had alternative provision schools since 1993. They are designed to prevent exclusions from mainstream school or improve behavioural problems so that students can re-access mainstream education.