A DEVELOPER responsible for demolishing part of a Victorian school should be forced to make good the damage, parish councillors said.

South Swindon parish councillors urged the borough to show they took the town’s historic buildings seriously and block a bid by developer Sukhvir Mander to partially demolish the former Clifton Street School and replace it with 10 flats.

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At a heated meeting of the parish planning committee, Old Town councillor Nick Burns-Howell said: “I think we should tell our friends on the borough this is an opportunity to show they take Swindon’s heritage seriously.

“This is an opportunity for the borough to tell developers they can’t come and do what they please with our important heritage assets and this is an opportunity for the borough to stand up to the developer and tell them to put right the senseless damage they caused without permission.

“That should be our message loud and clear that this is an opportunity for the borough to stand up and protect our heritage.”

Last year, demolition work was halted by Swindon Borough Council as planner officers pointed out the developer did not have the relevant planning permissions.

Approval has previously been granted for plans that would have converted the 140-year-old building into flats. Last year, an application to demolish the Victorian school was thrown out by the borough planning committee.

Patrick Herring, Eastcott parish councillor and vice chairman of the South Swindon planning committee, predicted the new development bid would fail on similar grounds:

“We are still losing a historical building,” he said. “I can’t see what they hope to achieve by putting this in rather than wasting everybody’s time.”

An online petition calling on the council to block the demolition bid has been signed by more than 1,000 people. A borough consultation on the plans will end on February 1.

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A spokesman for DPDS planning consultants, acting for Mr Mander, previously defended the plans: “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.

“The main building of the former school complex facing William Street has a commanding street presence retaining elements identifying its former role. The building element proposed to be demolished is not listed and has no particular architectural merit whilst its presence in the street scene presents considerably less than an imposing feature.”

'We've worked hard to preserve what's been lost'

RESPONDING to parish councillor pleas for the borough to step up protection for heritage, Swindon Borough Council said they had done what they could to protect the school.

“The council does not want to see its historic assets lost. We have worked hard to preserve what remains of the building and while this can appear to be time consuming, there is a due process to follow," a spokesman said.

"However, it is important to note that it is not a council-owned asset, so we are limited in what we can do.

“We do indeed take heritage and conservation issues seriously, as demonstrated by our investment in the Carriage Works, Lydiard House and our successful bid to establish a Heritage Action Zone in the area around the Railway Village.

“While it isn’t always possible to protect buildings that are not owned by the Council, we endeavour to use the processes that are available to us to ensure that buildings are not unnecessarily lost or are left to become eyesores.”