A DEVELOPER who wanted to turn a Victorian school in into flats has lost his planning appeal.

Sukhvir Mander had tried to overturn the refusal by Swindon Borough Council to let him partially demolish Clifton Street School and build 10 flats.

But the government inspector agreed with the authority. Campaigners were pleased by the verdict.

Sally Hawson, founder of Save Swindon’s Heritage, said: “I’m thrilled. It’s very good news.

“I just hope that the building hasn’t gone too far.

“It’s been open to the elements for a long time – there’s been snow, and torrential rain and baking heat, especially last summer.

“We found that the developer had stripped out the interior.

“I’m very pleased because it shows if people stick together and work together on a campaign it can work.

“The inspector referred to the number of objections letters to the appeal in his decision.”

Ben Blakey, who organised a petition against the plans, said: “It is fantastic news that the appeal has been rejected.

“This area of Swindon has a great Victorian charm to it and with its close proximity to Radnor Street Cemetery, as well as the local architecture, it makes the whole area historically significant.

“Swindon is famous for embracing innovation and to grasp at the future with past developments, such as the Spectrum Building. But it needs to remember the history of where it came from, especially from a social perspective.

“I was pleasantly surprised just how many people were so supportive of the petition, and how many pleasant memories people have of Clifton Street School.

“To preserve this history for future generations is paramount.

“I’d now like to see the council work with Mr Mander to ensure that this building is correctly and sympathetically repaired.

“I’d welcome the council and Mr Mander working with the local community and heritage professionals to seek a way of finding a solution for this building’s long-term future.

“I would hate to see this end up the same as the Locarno or Mechanics’ Institute, other pieces of our neglected heritage.”

In his ruling, government’s planning inspector David Murray said the school was a ‘building of local significance’ due to its historical, social and architectural qualities.

“The proposed redevelopment would result in the total loss of this building. The loss would be harmful to the social history. and architectural character of the area.”

Mr Murray took issue with the design of the block of flats, saying: “The scale and siting of the replacement building would be significantly at odds with the local area and would harm the character of the area.”

Mr Mander’s planning agents at DPDS Consulting declined to comment other than to say the decision was ‘disappointing’.

Gary Sumner, the borough council’s cabinet member for strategic planning, said: “We welcome the decision by the inspector to support the council’s policies on heritage, and to support the ruling that the old school building should not be demolished.

“Councillors, and the council, do not wish to see this heritage asset lost, and it is now for the developer to submit a more sympathetic design for this site which fully incorporates Clifton Street School.

“Enforcement action is still being pursued through the courts and this ruling strengthens our hand for the next stage of the fight to sort out the site."

Clifton Street fight goes on

Clifton Street School was built in 1884 and extended and remodelled in 1950.

It celebrated its centenary three years before being closed with its pupils moving to Robert Le Kyng Primary in Westcott Street.

After closing it was used for commercial purposes, most recently as the offices of high-tech communications company Swindon Silicone Systems, before Sukhvir Mander bought it.

He began the partial demolition of the Radnor Street building, which was stopped when in June 2018 an application for retrospective permission for that was refused by planners at the borough council.

Mr Mander then applied for permission to continue with the partial demolition and to build the flats in December last year, which was refused in March, after which he lodged his unsuccessful appeal.

A court hearing is expected soon for the order the council has made to restore the partially demolished school building.