Richard Waller, chair of Pitcombe Parish Council, has recently summarised what’s been going on with the sale (the school lies wholely within Pitcombe, so the parish council has been taking a lead). He has given permission for his summary to be posted here, but has asked to make it clear that the opinions expressed are his opinions, and not those of Pitcombe Parish Council.

‘Here is an update on the future of the site of Bruton School for Girls. The Parish Council has been in contact with the management of Kings School and representatives of Bruton Town Council to keep ourselves updated on the disposal of the former school site. It has become clear that the site will not return to its former purpose as a school and the owners are in the process of selling the buildings and grounds through the agents Knight Frank. We have been told that there has been a great deal of interest but that the most likely purchasers will be property developers with a focus on residential occupancy. In other words, housing.

The nursery school continues to function on one part of the site and with its separate entrance may continue in its present location. Otherwise, the site consists of some buildings which may be converted to houses or flats and others which will possibly be demolished and replaced. There is also the possibility of extensive new build. The houses previously occupied by staff have already been marketed and some sales have been arranged or concluded. All of this amounts to a considerable change in our community and potentially a dramatic alteration to our local environment.

One thing is clear; it is not possible to prevent this change and preserve the status quo. We will have the opportunity to influence the future of the site and to protect some of the character of the site through the normal planning process and by making representations to the management of Kings School and the eventual developer. Because the site is considered to be “brown field” it will be treated as previously developed land which can be repurposed so there is a presumption that a reasonable housing proposal will be approved by planning.

The PPC has taken the initiative of registering the Astroturf pitches as Assets of Community Value which may provide a degree of protection to that site to ensure its availability for use by various clubs. We have already engaged in communication with Kings School as we believe that understanding what is proposed and likely to happen gives us the best opportunity to influence the eventual outcome.

Most recently we have held a meeting on site with John Hammond who is Lead Specialist – Built Environment with Somerset Council to discuss the parameters of development on the overall site. He explained some of the factors which will have a bearing on planning decisions including the previous occupancy of the site, the distinctiveness of the existing buildings, the impact on the local environment, the tree-cover on the site, access to services and the overall need for housing in Somerset. We will be making our own concerns and preferences known to the officers. Councillor Lucy Trimnell was also present at this site meeting.

Our understanding is that vendors hope to progress with a preferred bidder before Christmas but that is outside our control. Of course, we hope that any future developer will be keen to involve the local community through some form of consultation process and in any event there will be the normal planning process for their eventual plans.

This development has the potential to have a massive impact on our community in terms of the construction phase and then through increased population, volume of traffic movements, noise and light pollution, visual impact, demand on services and loss of habitat. There may also be benefits from improved services within the site. Our residents will be able to contribute to the formal planning process eventually but you can express any concerns or your support via your elected representatives. The Parish Council will keep itself and the community informed.’

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