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Homes plan for derelict school site in Radstock

By Somerset Guardian  |  Posted: January 10, 2013

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A Radstock school where thousands of local children were educated could be demolished to make way for new homes.

St Nicholas Infant School closed its doors to pupils in 2005 when two new multi-million pound primary schools were built. In the years since the building has been targeted by vandals and now stands derelict and riddled with rot in the centre of the town.

Earl James Waldegrave, who owns the school and the neighbouring schoolmaster's house, had the buildings handed back to him in September 2011 by the Diocese of Bath and Wells.

The peer benefited from the Reverter of Sites Act 1987, which entitles a landowner to have a site returned to them if trustees of a charity or other body cease to use land for the purpose it was given.

The site had been donated to the people of Radstock in 1857 by the earl's ancestor Countess Frances Waldegrave.

He has blamed the handover delay for helping the building degrade and said he hoped creating six mews-style houses from the existing stone of the school could improve the "eyesore" blighting the conservation area.

The former schoolmaster's house at the front of the building has been extensively repaired, refurbished and modernised, with all mains services including gas.

Now planning consent is being sought to demolish the school itself to make way for the new homes.

Discussions have taken place with Bath and North East Somerset Council and the earl is awaiting a builder's report on the condition of the building, which he described as "terrible" and a haven for antisocial behaviour with dirty needles, bottles and other drug paraphernalia scattered across the floors.

He said: "I acquired the school in September 2011 from trustees acting for the diocese. The school actually closed in 2005; and so it took over six years for them to transfer it to me; during which time it was heavily vandalised, and squatted in. Most of the lead flashings were stolen from the roof, so water got in everywhere, followed by wet and dry rot.

"Just about everything of any value from the inside was stolen, including fireplaces, banisters and metal radiators.

"The building is not listed, but it is in a conservation area. An attempt had been made in 2007 to get the building listed, but English Heritage turned this down, on the grounds that the building was not of sufficient architectural interest, had been very much modified over the years, and was in terrible condition."

Earl Waldegrave plans to demolish part of the building next week – something that can be done without permission from the local authority, before entering an application for the homes in the spring.

He added: "It needs pulling down before it falls down. We have tried everything to prevent people getting into the building but they still force their way in.

"Frankly, I am worried about the welfare of the druggies coming in through the roof. It is very dangerous, there is asbestos and it is a hazard to breathe in the virulent mould. The part of the building we are planning to take down has a concrete roof and we are unsure what is actually holding it up."

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