Centre sale to pave the way for new HQ
AN historic education centre built by Josiah Spode II could be sold off as part of council plans to move to a new £40 million headquarters.
The Mount Education Support Centre, in Penkhull, is currently used as a base for 120 staff employed by Stoke-on-Trent City Council's Children and Young People's Services.
But the listed building's long-term future has been thrown in to doubt after the council confirmed it is considering off-loading the property when it moves from the Civic Centre in Stoke to the Central Business District in Hanley.
The Mount appears on a list, released under the Freedom of Information Act, which reveals public assets earmarked for 'potential disposal/redevelopment' including the City Centre Library, Spode, Hanley Town Hall, Stoke Town Hall and a number of others.
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However, the council says even if it is sold, its Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) services, which provides training and support to families of disabled youngsters, will continue to be provided from the building.
Historian Richard Talbot says a legal covenant is still attached to The Mount which means it could not be used for purposes other than education.
Mr Talbot, of Newcastle Lane, Penkhull, said: "I'm confident it is listed and that there is a covenant on the building restricting its use to education.
"The council might think about selling it, but there are a lot of legal hoops to get through before anything could actually be done about it."
The Mount, which is also used by the nearby Willows Primary School, was built by master potter Josiah Spode II in 1803, who at the time was the most successful china manufacturer in the area and had amassed a huge fortune.
It was taken over by the North Staffordshire Blind and Deaf School in 1897.
The building was then bought by the North Staffordshire Joint School Authority which was formed from the six pottery towns and the parishes of Wolstanton and Norton and used to educate disabled children.
Julie Brookes, of Sillitoe Place, Penkhull, who has had a number of dealings with services at The Mount, through her autistic 14-year-old son Jack, said: "I think they should stay at The Mount. They help with a lot of things and I think it's the right place for the services. Jack has had lessons there. We got a lot of help from SEND."
Councillor Alan Dutton, cabinet member for education, said: "Our asset rationalisation programme is ongoing and The Mount is one of the buildings being reviewed.
"It also provides office space for specialist school support staff. In the future it will continue to be used by many of the same or similar services but the specifics are currently being discussed."