A CONTROVERSIAL plan to convert a grade II listed former school in Minehead into flats has been given the green light.

West Somerset Council’s planning committee debated the scheme for the existing house at Periton Mead School to be converted into flats and for 17 new homes to be built in the grounds at its meeting on Thursday, December 14.

Minehead Conservation Society were among those standing against the scheme with chairman Sally Bainbridge, criticising the design and describing it as ‘a real mish-mash’ of Gothic, Arts and Crafts and ultra-modern architectural styles.

Councillors also criticised the developer’s lack of contribution to affordable housing or contribution toward recreational facilities, however, planning officer Bryn Kitching said the developer was undertaking significant costs to bring a derelict site back into use.

Cllr Andrew Hadley has been at the forefront of opposition to the developer’s plans, speaking out against the bid due to its lack of affordable housing.

“Our local plan cost thousands of pounds to develop,” he said. “The actual housing need in West Somerset has been identified as more than 60 per cent of the 2,400 houses required to 2032 and this council adopted a more practical policy of 35 per cent.

“When the developer bought this property he signed on the dotted line, aware of the emerging local plan. The developer is now claiming he cannot provide the affordable element, 10 houses, because of viability. 

“Minehead is in desperate need of affordable housing, and not to the profit of faceless developers. If the developer miscalculated when buying this land, it should not be our residents who suffer because of it.”

However, Tim Dunkley, from Core Planning Services Ltd, representing the developer, said the application would restore an unused building, create 31 new homes in a time of great need, including 16 new homes which will be carefully designed to be in keeping with what is already there. 

“There are no objections from a highways, ecological or flood risk point of view,” Mr Dunkley said. “The construction will create jobs and secure the long-term future of this heritage site.”