A PETITION started in a bid to save a Victorian school building from being demolished has gathered nearly 800 signatures in just 48 hours.

The online document only needed 350 to be debated at a full council meeting. But developer Sukhvir Mander’s plan to knock down the 15-metre front of the Radnor Street building has caused anger.

Ben Blakey, who created the petition, said: “Clifton Street School is a valuable part of Swindon’s heritage, which has been eroded in the name of progress. Swindon has very few buildings of historical importance, especially New Swindon, which was born after the Great Western Railway decided to build their world-famous works here.

“Developers have run roughshod over Swindon’s heritage for many years. We have lost many buildings of importance to the greed of developers, who often do not consider the heritage aspect or the sentimental attachment to our few remaining historical buildings, or the architectural importance of them.”

A retrospective application to knock down part of the building was blocked by the borough’s planning committee in June last year after demolition work started in February. Councillors said it would result in the loss of the Victorian building. A spokesman for DPDS planning consultants said: “Our client already has the necessary approvals for the conversion of the whole of the former school building to residential use, much of the work having already been completed, thereby bring a new use to the main elements of a former educational building and retaining most of the original structural fabric. However, the smaller building facing Radnor Street does not easily lend itself to conversion for residential purposes and our client’s proposal is to replace it with a new terraced building that is designed to blend with the architectural style of existing residential properties in Radnor Street immediately adjacent to the site.”

“This proposal has much to commend it, not least of all by delivering much needed residential units within the urban area.”

Elaine Maloney said she signed the petition because the school was an important part of the area’s heritage. “It served the local families for many generations and is remembered fondly even today by online groups of ex pupils and staff. We do not have enough buildings left in Swindon with such a rich history as all too soon they get torn down to make way for new builds.

“The school’s history has been well documented by enthusiasts over the years and a new use was found for it previously so I feel sure it could be put to good use again with a little thought and care.

“I would personally feel heartbroken to see it demolished as I spent many happy years there and made lifelong friends so consider it to be special.”