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School demolition call gets a right old caning
CONTROVERSIAL proposals to part-demolish one of Worcester’s most historic buildings have been heavily criticised – with politicians labelling it “wanton destruction”.
Berkeley Homes wants to build 26 flats as part of the Diglis development off King Street, despite major concerns it could wreck tourism at Worcester Porcelain Museum. During a planning committee meeting at the Guildhall, Amanda Savidge, museum director, said the new development would obscure the attraction.
She said visitor numbers had soared 28 per cent in one year since a sign was placed on a wall facing King Street, but it would be difficult to spot it if the development went ahead.
Plans to part-demolish the old school house, which dates back to the 1850s as part of the former St Peter’s School, were also lambasted by councillors.
After a debate, the committee decided to defer Berkeley Homes’ bid so talks can take place over saving the building, and creating a better located sign for the museum.
Ms Savidge said the development showed a “disregard for tourism and the wider economic regeneration” of the city, bringing more congestion and obscuring the museum. “This is a destination worthy of being championed rather than hidden by the city,” she said.
The criticism was refuted by John Wilson, of Tyler Parkes planning, who turned up to defend Berkeley Homes’ scheme. “Like many other projects, the Diglis development has been left unfinished by the recession,” he said. “Where there should be a gateway entrance, there is now a void.”
He said it would “connect Royal Worcester Porcelain to Sidbury”, adding that conversion of the entire school house is not economically viable. The site won outline permission for 24 apartments in 2006 as part of the wider Diglis homes complex.
Under the current plans, 20 two-bed and six one-bed apartments would be created, with 53 ‘undercroft’ parking spaces at ground floor level. The former school house’s oldest section would be retained, but the rest of the building demolished to allow for the conversion into a brand new building. Councillor Alan Amos said: “I’ve got two problems here – the complete lack of affordable housing, as there is not a single one planned for this, and the wrecking of a 125-year old building. Heritage is so important to this city – many people would regard this demolition as wanton destruction.
“It would be a regression like planning in the 1960s, which unfortunately I’m not responsible for.”
Coun Paul Denham said: “In a conservation area of a very historic city, we ought to take these matters extremely seriously – for the life of me I can’t see how this would enhance the area.”
The plans were also criticised in a report by an in-house city council conservation panel. It was deferred unanimously.