Words: Richard Beecham, local democracy reporter
Officers at Leeds City Council have approved nearly £10m worth of funding to go towards building a new home for a learning centre for young adults.
The Vine provides education for people with special educational needs, aged 19-25, and is now set to move into a permanent purpose-built home after nearly a decade in exile.
The Vine’s original site at the Blenheim Building in south Leeds shut down in 2012, and had to move facilities temporarily to Queenswood Education Centre, on the border of Kirkstall and Headingley.
But this week, the council’s chief finance officer has approved a cash injection of more than £9m to go towards the works for a site next to Trinity Academy in Torre Road, Richmond Hill.
A decision notice from Leeds City Council read:
“Upon completion of the capital works, the VINE provision will be able to accommodate up to 60 young people between the ages of 19 and 25 with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND).”
A document which went before officers claimed that around a fifth of children who attend special needs learning centres in Leeds require ongoing educational support after 19.
It added: “Currently, the authority cannot meet all the complexity of needs presented within the city and is increasingly reliant on out of area placements that are more expensive.
“This has led to an increase in spend from the high needs block of the designated school grant which in the long term is not sustainable.”
Plans for the site first emerged in 2020, as members of the authority’s decision-making executive board were told the numbers of young adults needing services provided by the Vine was increasing.
A document which went before the board in December last year claimed that the annual cost of borrowing the total amount of £10.8m to build the centre would be £374,000 a year, and that it would allow the council to meet its legal obligation to provide specialist learning places.
Work on site is expected to start by the end of this year, and it is hoped the new facility can be open by late 2022.