Victory for campaigners

CAMPAIGNERS are celebrating after successfully getting St Christopher’s School in Westbury Park designated as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).

The decision by Bristol City Council means the site cannot be sold without local people first being given the chance to buy it.

St Christopher’s School closed in 2020 after 70 years serving children with special edu-cational needs and disabilities (SEND) and the hope is that it can in future be used again for that purpose to help meet increasing demand in the city.

A spokesperson for the SEND Alliance for St Christopher’s, the group that put together the ACV bid , said: 

“We are over the moon that the legacy of St Christopher’s school has been officially rec-ognised. ACV status means that we now have a real chance to ensure this wonderful site returns to being a community asset so it can serve SEND families again in the future. A big thank you to everyone at Bristol City Council.” 

St Christopher’s is ‘a special place’

Families of former pupils of St Christopher’s School have welcomed the success of a bid to protect the site.

They hope Bristol City Council’s decision to designate it an Asset of Community Value (ACV) will be the first step in bringing back special needs educational provision. 

The new legal status, granted after the SEND Alliance for St Christopher’s submitted a 40-page dossier backed by Bristol North West MP Darren Jones and many others, means that the ACV must be taken into consideration in any future plans. The community also has a chance to bid for, and buy the site, if it comes onto the market. 

Julie Owen’s daughter, Angharad, spent nine happy years at the school and Julie believes the site has the potential to open up and be used for SEND provision again. 

She said: “It’s brilliant news. St Christopher’s School was a very special place and helped so many families, like ours, over so many years. It’s really important for us that Bristol City Council has acknowledged the unique education it provided – especially for children with severe autism. I really hope this means the community will be able to buy the site and do something amazing there in the future because there’s so much need among SEND families in Bristol.” 

Angharad, 35, has Rett syndrome, a rare neurological disorder, and attended the school in Westbury Park between 1998 and 2007. Her mother believes the care and education Angharad received at St Christopher’s was second to none. Angharad now 

lives independently in a flat in Downend, cared for by her mum and brother, Alex.

The St Christopher’s site, which includes the Grade II listed Grace House, is owned by a London investment firm, the FORE partnership. Plans to develop it as a luxury retirement village were turned down in August 2023. More than 1,300 objections were lodged against the scheme.