Gyosei school homes plan runs into trouble

CONTROVERSIAL plans to bulldoze a former school and replace it with homes could collapse. Councillors could not agree that the Willen site of the Gyosei Japanese school was appropriate for a retirement village and have put off a decision on the proposed scheme by the ExtraCare Charitable Trust.

The city planning committee has asked landowners English Partnerships to indicate other potential sites. It also wants more

details about the project and views of Government ministers.

Debate on the issue in front of a public gallery packed with opponents of the scheme raged on for more than two hours before the slenderest 6-5 vote deferring a ruling on the application for outline planning permission.

Supporters of moves to provide additional housing for pensioners are confronted by those who decry destruction of school buildings that have an interested buyer.

Cate Croucher, one of the most outspoken critics of the scheme, told councillors the application "breaks all standards, plans and policies and would normally be rejected without debate".

"You are being asked to agree the demolition of a beautiful building – destroy a needed and sought after educational and sporting facility."

She said later she was optimistic the bid for the Willen site would now fail.

"I hope reason and sense and right will prevail," she added.

Council officers had advised the planning committee that the ExtraCare scheme only "just outweighs" policy objections to loss of the existing facilities.

More than 400 homes are planned – 172 houses and flats alongside the 250 of the old people's village.

The village will include an IT centre and gym.

The planning committee decision will throw a Government spotlight on the plan, which must anyway go to the Secretary of State for approval.

ExtraCare viewed the deferment as "unfortunate".

Director John Payne said: "Our concern is that with government funding we are in a fairly restricted time frame and we have to start before the end of this financial year."