Nearly 100 homes planned for former Friends' School

CGI of the proposed housing at the former Friends' School in Saffron Walden, Essex

CGI of the proposed housing at the former Friends' School in Saffron Walden - Credit: Chase New Homes

Plans to build 96 homes on a former private school have moved a step closer.

Chase New Homes Ltd has submitted an application to the planning inspectorate for the redevelopment of the former Friends’ School on Mount Pleasant Road, Saffron Walden, which has been vacant for four years.

Uttlesford District Council has the status of a consultee. They voted to recommend the planning inspector approve the scheme at a meeting earlier today (May 11).

The council was designated earlier this year over poor performance in relation to the quality of decision-making on major applications, meaning developers can now bypass the council and apply directly to the inspectorate.

The Friends’ School redevelopment would include converting the main school building to 52 apartments, demolishing other buildings at the site and also building a swimming pool and other sports facilities.

But the proposals included no plans for affordable housing, with the applicant arguing Vacant Building Credit, an incentive for developers to build on vacant buildings, meant no provision was necessary.

A section of a design and access statement reads: “The scheme has evolved over many months, being refined with layouts and designs altered to take into account local designations, character and the constraints of the site, which have also been utilised as opportunities to provide a pleasant residential environment that is also accessible to the public to enjoy.”

Councillor Arthur Coote said he had collated feedback from some of the 120 residents who live near the site.

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“I think what is clear is that there is general support from the residents of the application, as it will protect the historic school building and put it to use, at the moment it’s a mess, so we’re aware that it has to happen.”

Later he said: “I have to say, the zero affordable housing is something that really knocked me back, I didn’t ever think that would happen.”

Councillors are also seeking more clarification regarding parking at the site.

Councillor Mark Lemon said: “I think parking in Saffron Walden generally is appalling and to build these houses without the correct number of parking spaces, I think this is a real concern that should be brought forward to the PINS (Planning Inspectorate) committee that parking is a problem.”

According to a council report, car parking spaces are planned for the south west of the site, away from the main school building.

The planning inspectorate will later decide whether to give approval for the scheme to be built.