Conservation group reveals alternative plans to proposed demolition of Victorian school building

By Ellyn Wright

30th Oct 2020 | Local News

The conservation group SAVE Britain's Heritage has revealed a proposal to turn the former Cowbridge girls' comprehensive school into apartments, as an alternative to the current plans to demolish the building.

More than 5,500 local people petitioned the Welsh Assembly to halt the demolition of the landmark Victorian School on Aberthin Road, but the Hafod Housing Association which is seeking planning permission to level the school has insisted it lacks the funds to preserve the old buildings.

Working with architect Philip Tilbury, SAVE Britain's Heritage, has produced an alternative scheme .

The scheme proposes that by converting the spaces in the old school and building on the land beside it will produce a mix of housing that can conform with the local development plan.

The group also says it can potentially provide an equal or better return to Sir Thomas Mansel Franklen Trust, the charity which is selling the site.

The Intermediate School for Girls opened in September 1896 as the first all-girls school to be built in Wales following the Welsh Education Act of 1889 and included dormitory accommodation for boarders.

It was expanded in 1908 and most recently used as the sixth form for Cowbridge Comprehensive until the school moved in 2010.

Dr Tudur Davies, of the local campaign group Save Cowbridge Girls' School welcomed the plans.

"The plans show that with some imagination and innovation, the old girls' school can once again be brought to life, clearly demonstrating that it is possible to provide much needed housing on this site without bulldozing our history," he said.

"These attractive designs rightly allow the school to stand proud as a testament to the significant contribution it played in paving the way for equal opportunities in the education of girls."

The petition to the Welsh Assembly objecting to demolition launched in May 2020 by concerned local residents drew 5541 signatures in just six weeks, 541 more than the required threshold to trigger a National Assembly debate.

Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain's Heritage said it was "telling" that so many people "feel strongly about this important Glamorgan landmark."

"Our scheme is designed to meet the strong call from local people for the school to be restored and retrofitted, providing an attractive mix of houses and apartments for local people and to provide a fair return on the property to the charity which owns it," he said.

"The recent petition has clearly shown this same community not only values their heritage, but wishes to see it restored and reused, not left for the wrecking ball," said Ben Oakley, conservation officer at SAVE Britain's Heritage.

"This school building was the first of its kind when built and educated many generations of the Cowbridge community right up to 2010."

Describing the proposal, Philip Tilbury said the school is large enough to create 23 apartments, and the adjacent land enough to build 12 apartments and two houses.

"The new homes will be laid out around two separate courtyards to create a village feel. We will avoid tarmac and use permeable bonded gravel or block paving for sustainability in managing surface water run-off whilst ensuring safe access for disabled," he said.

"Dwarf walls and railings will complement the street scene. There will be carparking and bike storage as well as pleasant gardens. The new buildings will be lime rendered to harmonise with the stone of the school."

Philip Tilbury previously worked on converting the disused Victorian Sanatorium originally built for Eton College into housing.

SAVE says it is now looking for a "sympathetic" developer to take the scheme forward and provide a "more attractive solution" than the original demolition proposal.

Hafod Housing Association wants to demolish the old Cowbridge Comprehensive sixth form building in Aberthin Road and replace it with five two-and-a-half-storey houses and a four-storey block of flats.

In its planning application, Hafod says the development would be "sensitively designed," and "improve the streetscene" of the area "by redeveloping a vacant and derelict building".

The housing association says the development would "provide range and choice of much needed affordable housing and promote access to and use of existing services and facilities in the surrounding area."

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