County planners press ahead with proposals to include former borstal in Gainford's conservation area despite opposition from residents (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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County planners press ahead with proposals to include former borstal in Gainford's conservation area despite opposition from residents
COUNTY planning officials are pressing ahead with proposals to include the shell of a former approved school in a village's conservation area, despite overwhelming opposition from residents.
Gainford Parish Council was told the former St Peter's School buildings, on the outskirts of the village, between Darlington and Barnard Castle, had architectural merit which should be preserved and incorporated into the future redevelopment of the area.
However, the meeting was told the majority of residents wanted the site flattened because one of its previous uses was as a borstal where the treatment of boys in its care has come under question.
Opened by the Catholic church in 1900, St Peter's Community Home was originally an orphanage for up to 300 boys before it became an approved school, which it remained until closure in 1984.
It was last used as nursing home but has stood empty and decaying since 1997.
Previous attempts to redevelop the site have stalled because it has been designated for business and employment use, not housing.
Parish councillors were told that could be overcome if the building was included in the conservation area and incorporated in a “prestigious” housing scheme.
However, members were also told that the business designation placed on the site would be lifted when the new County Durham plan came into force.
Senior design and conservation officer Brian Harris said proposals to include St Peter's in the conservation area had led to proactive discussions with the two landowners, Kebbel Homes and Ruttle Plant for the first time.
But Councillor Richard Roff said: “The presumption against demolition is most people's problem.
“I am not sure I have heard anyone say extending the conservation area that far is a bad thing, it is just the buildings.”
Coun Sarah Hannan added: “It is unloved and neglected. It is uncommon in Teesdale, but I can see no importance to it. It is a red brick building in an area of sandstone.”
The parish council commissioned its own planning expert to look at the conservation area proposals and Coun Britton said this urged the county planners to take into account how St Peter's blighted the village.
“It is the view of the majority of villagers and that should carry some weight,” she said.
Parish councillors were told the conservation area proposals would go before Durham County Council's cabinet in December for a final decision.
Mr Harris said this would give the parish council another chance to influence the decision.
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