New special needs school in Blyth to be named after doctor who founded the town's first hospital

An 80-place special needs school is to be built on the site of the demolished Princess Louise First School in Blyth.

By Daniel Holland
Monday, 11th July 2022, 10:23 am
Updated Monday, 11th July 2022, 11:20 am

The Gilbert Ward Academy will cater for pupils aged 11 to 16 with autism and social, emotional and mental health needs.

It will be built in Princess Louise Road, which has stood vacant since 2016, and has been described as an “eyesore”.

Designs for the new facility, which also includes a multi-use games area (MUGA) that will be open to the community, have been approved by Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning committee.

A computer-generated image of the new school in Blyth.

Isabella ward councillor Anna Watson said: “There is a clear need in Northumberland for this type of school. I think it is a real benefit to the area in Blyth.

“I think it was 2016 when it was last used as a site and it has become a bit of an eyesore now. To have a school back on that site, which does hold a lot of memories for people when it was Princess Louise, is a positive for the area.

“There is an area to be lost at the back which is a part of the country walk, but there is a positive because it is a big open area and I would like to see the community get benefit from the MUGA as well.”

The new school is named after Dr Gilbert Ward, who helped set up Blyth’s first hospital and was known for treating survivors of the New Hartley pit disaster.

The two-storey school building itself will be built on land on the southern side of Princess Louise Road, where the old school once stood, while a 40-space staff car park will be built on the northern side adjacent to the Blyth Sports Centre car park.

Tory councillor Lyle Darwin raised concerns that improved lift access was needed to allow for “humane” evacuation of disabled pupils in the event of an emergency, while fears were also raised about the car park being used by other traffic.

Liberal Democrat Jeff Reid said: “It seems to be a well-designed thing, though we need to bear in mind what has been said about the lift, but I am sure you [council planning officers] are going to sort all that out.”