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Revised plans to convert historic former school site into housing in Swaffham

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An amended planning application will be considered this month seeking to convert a former school site in the centre of a market town into housing.

Property company A.R. and V. Investments has resubmitted an amended change of use application for the Old School House in Swaffham Market Place.

The former Hamonds High School site contains two Grade II listed buildings, and a further Grade II listed gate at the rear.

The buildings were first listed in January 1951 before separate listing descriptions were altered in July 1996.

Breckland Council granted permission for the site to be used as an antiques centre in 2013, although this was closed down shortly afterwards, and the site has been vacant ever since.

A design and access statement says the application has been redesigned to reduce the number of new units, to ensure surrounding homes are not overlooked.

Old School House, Swaffham Market Place. Picture: David Dixon
Old School House, Swaffham Market Place. Picture: David Dixon

The proposal seeks to create 19 new homes as a mixture of conversions of new build accommodation and restoration of the two principal site buildings facing the Market Place to create a pair of semi-detached properties.

These two properties would be four and five bedroomed homes. The proposal also seeks to convert the old gymnasium fronting onto Whitsand Road into four townhouses.

A previous application was refused by Swaffham Town Council in accordance with Breckland Council development policy due to the "poor level of residential amenity for the future occupants, overshadowing to a neighbours gardens and damage to a category B tree".

It was deemed that there was no substantial public benefits outweighing that harm.

The new scheme has the support of planning officers with a low flood risk identified.

And the site has been described as "sensitive" because of its location within the Swaffham Conservation Area, and the fact there is a Grade II* listed house immediately adjacent to the north of the site.

The design and access statement reads: "The proposal is being submitted to bring the site and listed buildings into optimum use, upgrading to the standards required to meet the twenty first century and takes in the whole of the site so that the setting of the listed buildings can also be enhanced and ensured of no detriment.

"Numerous discussions have been held with council officers and this planning application is the culmination of these discussions."

It has been noted that the level of repair required for the listed building has increased due to vandalism and damp caused during the time it has been vacant.

The design and access statement continues: "The last use of the site was as an ‘Emporium’ for antiques and the site has not been in use for some time.

"This has resulted in vandalism and broken windows and some evidence of temporary occupation. In bringing the site back into use this will prevent this anti-social activity."

Each property proposed has a single parking space provided and some visitor spaces at the request of the town council.

And vehicular access would be shared via the two existing accesses onto Market Place and Whitsands Road.

A viability assessment states that without enabling development of the scale proposed, a development scheme to bring the principle listed buildings to optimal use, would result in a deficit of £350,908.

The applicant believes the proposal in conpliant with the Swaffham Neighbourhood Plan, and "would result in a profit of £18,341 at current market rates".

Swaffham town councillors will consider the revised application during a planning committee meeting on Tuesday, November 24.

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