On behalf of Chase New Homes, Savills Planning has secured the first residential planning permission in England granted directly through the Planning Inspectorate under Section 62A of the Town and Country Planning Act.

The consent relates to the site of the former Friends’ School in Saffron Walden which closed its doors in 2017 and falls under the planning authority of Uttlesford District Council.  

The Council has been placed into ‘special measures’ by the Secretary of State due to the council having more than 10 per cent of its planning decisions overturned at appeal over a two-year period to March 2020.

Consequently, for major development – schemes with more than 10 houses or over one hectare (2.47 acres) in area – applicants can currently take their proposals straight to the Planning Inspectorate.

Acting for Chase New Homes, Savills submitted the application under Section 62A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to provide 96 new homes alongside the refurbishment of an indoor swimming pool, provision of tennis courts and multi-use games area and extensive landscaping.  

Permission has now been given for the main school building to be converted into 52 flats and a communal library/drawing room, with some newer extensions to the building, demolished.

The neighbouring Croydon Building will be converted into four flats and the Assembly Hall extended to provide six dwellings, while the remainder of the existing buildings will be demolished and replaced with a mixture of flats and houses. 

Overall, the properties will be split into 25 one-bed, 44 two-bed, 18 three-bed, and nine four-bed units. Car parking will also be provided, including 35 spaces for visitors and users of the swimming pool, which will be open to members of the public alongside the other sports facilities.  

Mark Hodgson, planning director at Savills in Cambridge, said: “Getting planning permission for this scheme is a big milestone for the client and we are delighted to achieve such a positive result. Working with PINS in this manner was a new experience for the project team, the client and the council.  There were a number of complex issues to address in relation to heritage and viability but we are over the moon with the outcome.”

Alan Ward, planning and design director at Chase New Homes, said: “This is fantastic news for Chase New Homes and Saffron Walden, ensuring the protection of a locally listed building while also providing a meaningful number of new homes on one of the most sustainable sites in the borough. 

“We are very grateful to receive permission from PINS and look forward to working collaboratively with Uttlesford District Council going forward.

“Our proposal is a low-density, sensitively designed scheme with significant outdoor and recreational space. The site will be re-developed as soon as pre-commencement conditions are discharged.”

In making the decision the Planning Inspectorate said the proposal was for a “relatively modest” residential-led development that used significant amounts of the existing buildings on a scale that was in keeping with previous uses of the site.

Externally, the important historic elements of the main school building will remain and the two buildings with the greatest architectural merit – the Croydon Building and Assembly Hall – would both be retained, sensitively refurbished and extended where necessary.

Although it noted that the removal of some playing fields would lead to a loss of facilities this would not “significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits of the proposal,” it added. “Overall, the proposal would preserve, and in places enhance, the character and appearance of the area.”

Image source: Savills

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