A £9M PLAN to demolish a school’s building and replace it with a sparkling new complex has been approved by councillors.

The Iffley Academy, which is the largest special school in Oxfordshire, will see its ‘dilapidated’ 1960s buildings knocked down and a new two-and-a-half storey unit will replace it.

Planning documents said the building, in Iffley Turn, was ‘well beyond its natural life and no longer suitable for the modern teaching requirements of a special school’.

The school’s headteacher Kay Willett told the city council’s East Area planning committee on Wednesday that the rebuild is desperately needed for some of the ‘most vulnerable children in Oxfordshire’.

She said a revamp was due as part of the Building Schools for the Future programme, but that was abandoned in 2010.

She said staff were ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul constantly’ in the current space to ensure children’s needs are well met – and that the school was still rated as excellent by Ofsted.

It educates about 130 children between 10 and 18, who have a range of special needs including learning difficulties, autism and mental health issues.

As part of the project, a one-storey unit and temporary classrooms will be scrapped and replaced with the new crucifix-shaped block.

Another one-storey building will contain an animal welfare and horticulture centre. A third building will have a construction workshop.

A woodland walk and a sports area will be built by construction company Kier after city councillors unanimously gave planning permission on Wednesday.

There were 13 objectors to the project, some of whom said they were concerned about the impact on nearby Grade II listed Grove House, a Regency villa built in 1832-33.

Council planning officers said ‘less than substantial harm’ would be caused by allowing the new building. That is justified because of the public benefit provided by the school, they said.

Plans said it had the potential to increase the modes of transport used by people travelling to the school.

Its sixth form centre will remain because funding was not awarded. That might change if funding is given in the future.

The school was formerly known as the Isis Academy but changed its name in 2016 to avoid any confusion with the ISIS terrorist group. It has also led on the creation of the North Iffley Academy in North Oxfordshire.