Plans to sell Copthorne secure home for children

County Hall in Chichester
County Hall in Chichester

Plans to sell a West Sussex secure home for children with highly complex needs have been supported by councillors.

Beechfield, in Copthorne, was closed in October 2016 after Ofsted raised significant concerns about the management of the unit and the state of the building.

A meeting of the children and young people’s services select committee on Wednesday was told that ‘significant investment’ would be needed to bring the building up to scratch.

In addition, there was no legal requirement for the council to provide a secure unit – and its licence to run one expired in March.

The committee agreed that the building should be declared surplus to requirements and were assured that any money made from its sale would be put back into children’s services.

The council has not said how much it would hope to receive from the sale.

West Sussex had explored the possibility of running the home in partnership with another council or organisation.

But none of the 22 authorities approached – or anyone from the voluntary sector – were interested.

All 14 staff at Beechfield were redeployed after the closure and the meeting was told that, should the sale be approved, there would likely be redundancies.

There would be financial consequences to the official closure of Beechfield.

The 2020/21 budget has a £460,000 profit pencilled in for the unit which will need to be addressed.

Chairman Michael Cloake said: “For me I think there’s a very clear business case or lack of it over Beechfield.

“I see there’s no real commercial reason to have it. There’s no real reason for our children to have it.”

The final decision will be made by Paul Marshall, cabinet member for children and young people, later this month.