Application refused for 100 homes on former Friends School site

Friends School on Mount Pleasant Road, Saffron Walden

Friends School on Mount Pleasant Road, Saffron Walden - Credit: ANDRA MACIUCA

An outline planning application to build 100 homes on a former private school site has been rejected after sparking thousands of objections. 

Hundreds complained to Uttlesford District Council and over 3,000 people signed an online petition to protect the Friends School site and use it for education.

The school, which was gifted by philanthropist George Gibson in the 19th century, closed in 2017.

The proposals for the playing fields on Mount Pleasant Road and former red brick gym building, swimming pool and parking area, also included public open space, a forest school and play areas. 

Planning committee members expressed significant concerns, including the need for a masterplan.


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In its decision, Uttlesford District Council's planning committee said that the design and scale of the Chase New Homes development was “inappropriate”. 

It said the protected open space, conservation area and locally-listed school buildings would be spoiled. 

Friends School on Mount Pleasant Road, Saffron Walden

Chase New Homes sign outside Friends School on Mount Pleasant Road, Saffron Walden - Credit: ANDRA MACIUCA

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Saffron Walden Town Council leader Paul Gadd said: “The town council is pleased that the application has been rejected. It’s about the worst place possible for housing in the town.  

“Planning policy says they should never build on that site. There is no green space in the centre of Saffron Walden apart from the Common and the Friends School site. 

“We would like its use to continue in a state or private education capacity.” 

Friends School on Mount Pleasant Road, Saffron Walden

Friends School on Mount Pleasant Road, Saffron Walden - Credit: ANDRA MACIUCA

Alan Ward, planning director at Chase, said the company disagreed with the council’s decision. He said the proposals meant “meaningful” community facilities, on top of 40 percent affordable housing.  

Mr Ward said: “There is a severe housing need in the borough.

“It’s always been in private ownership, but we were going to  provide a substantial open space which could be used for community events. 

"To say it’s the worst space... it’s not open at the moment! 

“The site was previously offering educational use but they couldn’t make it work, so it closed down."

He added: “It’s a lovely idea, but it would require millions of pounds to bring it back into use. People can send their children for free to the County High so there is no demand for a private school on this location. 

“There needs to be a grown-up discussion about what happens with it.” 

Chase is currently considering whether it will appeal against the decision. 

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