The Countess of Wessex will open the new £3million extension to The National Autistic Society s Broomhayes School and Children s Centre in Bideford on Friday. The Countess, who has been patron of the NAS since 2003, will be taken on a private tour of the

The Countess of Wessex will open the new £3million extension to The National Autistic Society's Broomhayes School and Children's Centre in Bideford on Friday.

The Countess, who has been patron of the NAS since 2003, will be taken on a private tour of the school and meet students, staff and donors before being invited to unveil a commemorative plaque.

NAS Broomhayes, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, was originally set up in Westward Ho! and moved to its present site in Alverdiscott Road in 1994.

The school provides year-round education and residential care for children and young people with autism. The royal visit will mark the official opening of a new further education college, new residential facilities and upgraded accommodation with buildings which will allow the school to accommodate eight extra students and cater for young people up to the age of 25.

Mark Milton, NAS deputy chief executive, said: "Autism is a serious, lifelong and disabling condition, but the right support at the right time can make an enormous difference to people's lives.

"The new college and residential building means we can offer improved facilities to current and future students.

"We are delighted that Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex will be visiting us to officially open the new buildings on what I'm sure will be a very memorable day for the students and the staff alike."

Mayor of Bideford, Cllr Philip Pester, said: "We're very much looking forward to Her Royal Highness' visit and the opening of the new NAS Broomhayes College. Broomhayes is an important part of the community and the new buildings will be an excellent addition.