CONTROVERSIAL plans to remove Victorian brick pillars from an Old Town school have been approved, despite objections from the council’s planning officer.

Lethbridge Primary School staff hoped to have the 11 piers demolished as it didn’t have the £10,000 to repair them and feared that they would be a safety risk.

The school had also installed a 24-metre mesh fence which, governors argued, made the brickwork redundant.

When the plans were discussed at a Swindon Borough Council planning meeting, the planning officer recommended refusal as he felt the loss of the last Victorian pillars would have an irreversible impact on the conservation area.

However, councillors disagreed and gave the demolition the green light.

School governor Jon Dearlove said: “The pillars are of questionable historical value and serve no meaningful purpose.

“We should use our funds for improving education, not renovating piers – this is for the greater good.

“They wobble when pushed, they’re an accident waiting to happen, the pillars pose a risk to our schoolchildren’s safety and security.”

Coun Toby Elliott said: “The school has not looked after the pillars.

“I don’t think they are an asset that should be upheld to the same standard as other historical structures, so I'm inclined to support this application.”

Coun Jane Milner-Barry and Coun Stan Pajak moved to approve the plans – the planning committee agreed with them through a vote of 10 to one.

Sally Hawson, from Save Swindon’s Heritage, said: “I think it's regrettable that the council should go against what the heritage conservation officer has recommended.

“It undermines their position as the expert authority and weakens our position as a town to protect our built heritage.

“Some may just write off these comments as my making a fuss about a few redundant brick piers around a school, but it is much more than that, it’s about challenging a mindset that is allowing the destruction of our built heritage.

“I am unimpressed by Lethbridge School for using its parents to get its own way, and to my mind they have set a bad example for the young children who will be the future keepers of our heritage buildings.

“Had they done due diligence and up kept the piers by asking for help in the local community and not removed the railings in the first place, the piers would not have been redundant.

“They knew what they were taking on, it is a heritage building and they have a duty to look after it.

“I find it completely ironic that the very people who supported the demolition are the ones who chose to live in Old Town because it is an historic and grand part of town."