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Kent's first combined centre for disability sports, art and culture given go-ahead by Kent County Council for Ifield school in Gravesend

By Messenger Reporter

A centre to inspire future paralympians is to be built in Kent, it has been announced.

Known as iSparc, it is to be built in the grounds of Ifield Foundation Special School in Gravesend and aims to build on Kent's Paralympic legacy.

The venue for disability sports, art and cultural centre was given the go-ahead by Kent County Council.

How the iSparc disability sports centre will look
How the iSparc disability sports centre will look

Facilities will be open not just to Ifield school's pupils, but to members of the public including disability groups and children and teachers from other schools.

Having cleared the first planning hurdle, the Cedar Avenue school is now looking for financial backing.

The centre has been designed by Aukett Morley Architects – a joint venture between London-based Michael Aukett Architects and David Morley Architects. It will include:

  • A six-badminton court sports hall with equipment for Paralympic sports such as goalball, boccia, wheelchair basketball and other activities.
  • A 25m eight-lane swimming pool with ramp, hoists, spectator area and cafeteria.
  • Dance and performing arts studio and therapy rooms.
  • A room with sunken trampolines, hoists and specialised equipment.
  • An outdoor football pitch, running track, climbing wall and wildlife area.
Head teacher Pam Jones
Head teacher Pam Jones

Head teacher Pam Jones, who was recently awarded the OBE, said: "We're very excited that Kent County Council has granted us outline planning permission for iSparc, especially as the school has been trying to build new sports facilities since 2002.

"Our challenge now is to secure funding for such an exciting scheme.

"Kent does not currently have a combined disability sports, arts and cultural venue and this centre will help to inspire children with special needs across the county to get involved in a multitude of sports and performing arts."

Clare Stoddart, chairman of projects on Ifield school governing board, said: "We are not just building a legacy, we are building a destiny.

"We want iSparc to become a centre for sports and performing arts for children and young people with disabilities. The goal is to build an inspiring facility where coaches and managers can be trained to a very high level in disability sports teaching."

Ifield School head teacher Pam Jones with pupils and staff on the sports field
Ifield School head teacher Pam Jones with pupils and staff on the sports field

KCC leader Paul Carter said: "This specialist facility will not only improve the health and social outcomes for disabled children and young people from Ifield Foundation Special School but it will provide a valuable resource benefitting many children and young people with special needs across the county, filling a void in the facilities currently available."

Andy Mytom, partner at David Morley Architects, said, "iSparc is a shining example of what can be achieved by a client that understands the potential for positive change through arts and sports.

"Ifield School's passion and commitment to make this vision a reality is second to none and we are delighted to be working along-side them on this incredible project."

Steve Baker, managing director at Michael Aukett Architects, said: "With a truly inspirational client and brief, we are delighted to have supported the school in achieving this first milestone and we very much look forward to continuing to assist and to realise the aspirations for iSparc."

The project's design team includes landscape consultants Hyland Edgar Driver; traffic engineers TPA/White Young Green; structural, mechanical, electrical and environmental consultants Cundall and cost consultants Stace.

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