A CONTROVERSIAL bid to build new homes in the grounds of a private school has secured council officers’ backing.
Craven Council’s planning committee will consider two outline planning applications for residential development on land at Malsis School, in Colne Road, Glusburn, near Keighley, on Monday.
Chartree Developments (Malsis) Ltd, which has the school’s agreement, is behind the bid to build the new homes in the grounds of the school which was founded in 1920.
A report to councillors says the proposed development would fund the estimated £450,000 needed to repair and maintain the main school hall – a Grade II listed building built in 1866 – and provide a solution to the school’s bank debts.
According to the report, “the school must sell off land for development in order to find a financial solution to its bank debts.”
It says: “It is emphasised that the school has re-modelled its staffing, numbers of pupils and fee structure and has managed to improve its finances to a point where the only shortfall relates to servicing the outstanding bank debts.”
Councillors will be advised to give delegated authority to officers to approve the applications subject to a number of demands being met.
Malsis School headteacher Marcus Peel said: “The school welcomes a recommendation of approval and has done all it can to meet the objections raised.
“We have amended the planned access with a new junction lay out and ensured retention of all the trees around the site perimeter.
“We have also worked closely with planners and English Heritage to reach agreements in support of the planning application. There has been overwhelming support from the local community and parish council so we are anticipating the best possible outcome.
“The success of the application will impact on the future and financial security of the school and the agreement to service bank loans secured against the building.
“We hope that councillors will acknowledge the local importance of Malsis School in the decision-making process.”
Malsis School, which employs 50 people locally, has argued it provides scholarships and bursaries to local children and selling the land would allow it to make further provision in the area.
The school is also proposing to use money from the proposed development to enhance its sport and leisure facilities which could be used by members of the public.
While an exact number of homes has yet to be decided, it is anticipated that 41 new houses would be built on one site and five dwellings on the other.
Craven District Council’s conservation adviser has argued that only the smaller western site should be considered for development to fund repairs to the listed building.
The report says the area earmarked for the larger development is “totally unsuitable for residential development”, and argues that it “needs to be retained and managed for its future landscape and community benefits”.
Craven Council has received comments from 23 people who support the larger proposed development and nine from people who are against it.
Nine people have contacted the local authority backing the smaller proposed scheme and five raising objections.
Supporters say the developments will provide “good quality housing”, will help to ensure the long-term future of the school and enable it to continue to provide facilities for local sports clubs and local employment.
They say losing the school would “put land in the hands of developers seeking a comprehensive new use for the whole site”.
But critics claim the development will lead to traffic problems and highway safety issues. They say that it is too close to neighbouring housing, will put pressure on local schools and threatens the identity of the village.