St Peter’s School was vacated in 2017. The property was owned by Wiltshire Council and before it was marketed for sale Wiltshire Council offered it to all public bodies for reuse, however no public body expressed any requirement for it. This is not surprising because reusing and converting old buildings is always complex and very expensive.
Before the site was marketed, Town Councillor Hall and I made a presentation to Wiltshire full council requesting that Wiltshire Council prepared a development brief supporting its use for residential development. Wiltshire Council took this onboard and prepared a development brief supporting its conversion to housing. As custodians of Public assets the council could not limit its use solely to residential use in order not to limit the value of this public asset.
The site was then offered for sale and was acquired by a local developer who obtained permission for 7 houses and a boutique hotel.
As we all know the pandemic took hold in early 2020 and hotels, restaurants and bars, as well as shops had to close. The hospitality industry has been severely affected. Also just before the lockdown a large new hotel opened on Salisbury Road and has only recently reopened. It is therefore not surprising that there is no interest now in developing a new boutique hotel.
St Peter’s School is a listed building and is within the Conservation Area and so considerable care must be taken in its conversion to retain its character. The site is within the Settlement boundary or development boundary where Wiltshire Council Policy is to prioritise resuse of currently or previously developed land. The policy is also to encourage suitable reuse of listed buildings to secure their future.
Over the last few years there has been a dramatic loss of employment land in the town eg. Citroen Garage, Vauxhall garage, Builders yard on London Road , Ailsbury Court etc.
The current application for converting the existing building with some new buildings behind is for 15 residential properties and 8 office suites. This mixed use development appears to meet all the planning policies.
This is an imaginative use for this key building which will secure its future, and is a very appropriate mix of uses and will improve the appearance of the Conservation Area and make a valuable contribution to this part of the town.
Converting Listed Buildings is always complex and very expensive requiring skilled designers and craftspeople with all components such as windows, doors, bricks, internal walls , room sizes etc all being bespoke and non standard and installing appropriate insulation and often removal of asbestos etc. adding to the complexity. Furthermore, unlike building standard houses with standard components, the project as a whole must be completed in its entirety unlike with new houses which can be built one at a time in step with sales. I think the developer has taken great care in putting this scheme together which should be popular with future occupiers.