A FORMER Somerset girls’ school could soon be replaced with a new housing development, according to local councillors.

Bruton School for Girls closed in the summer of 2022 after 122 years of operation, citing low pupil numbers – a decision which came as a shock to local parents.

The site was put on the market in January at a guide price of £9m, and is still being advertised by estate agents Knight Frank as of Thursday (September 28).

Richard Waller, the chairman of Pitcombe Parish Council, has now revealed that the site may soon be turned into housing rather than being re-purposed as a new school or other community use.

While Bruton School for Girls included numerous pupils from Bruton itself, the site lies entirely within the neighbouring parish of Pitcombe, on the A359 Strutter’s Hill.

A statement from Mr Waller – who was speaking in a personal capacity – was posted on the Bruton Town Council website on Wednesday (September 27).

He said: “The parish council has been in contact with the management of King’s 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.”

Bruton has seen significant housing growth at its eastern edge in recent times, dominated by the Cubis Bruton development on the A359 Cuckoo Hill.

Two other sites either side of Brewham Road have been identified for housing growth, with applications for either site being held up by the phosphates crisis.

Mr Waller continued: “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 ‘brownfield’, it will be treated as previously developed land which can be re-purposed, so there is a presumption that a reasonable housing proposal will be approved by planning.”

Mr Waller said the parish council was in the process of registering the astroturf pitches within the site as assets of community value – meaning they could not be redeveloped without giving the community an opportunity to purchase them for local provision.

He added: “We have held a meeting on site with John Hammond, who is the lead specialist for 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 [who represents Wincanton and Bruton] 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.’