Objections to proposals for former school site

An artist's impression of the proposals for the Duke's School site.
An artist's impression of the proposals for the Duke's School site.

Opposition is mounting against major plans to transform a former school site into a mix of residential accommodation.

Northumberland Estates is behind the redevelopment of Alnwick’s old Duke’s Middle School, which shut in 2017.

The scheme, which was exhibited to the public last Thursday, comprises a range of changes.

The Estates wants to convert the listed building part of the school into 29 apartments.

The development would see the demolition of the 1960s extension, outbuilding and caretaker’s bungalow, replaced with a contemporary extension which would be ‘complementary’ to the listed building.

On the far side of the school field, 52 apartments would be built as part of a retirement living scheme by McCarthy and Stone, as well as 33 units, comprising flats and bungalows.

The proposals also feature four acres of publicly accessible open green space, with new footpath links connecting the town centre and nearby park.

The Estates says that access improvements would be made from The Avenue – which runs beside Alnwick police station and up to Swansfield Park Primary School – while a new vehicular access point would be created from Swansfield Park Road.

Following the exhibition, the Estates said that ‘the general feeling was overwhelming support’, and indeed, the scheme does have supporters.

But the proposals have also prompted concern, especially from nearby residents, and following the exhibition, the Gazette was contacted by a string of people who are against the plans. One of these is Mark Hobrough, who lives along Swansfield Park Road and backs onto the site.

In an email to the Gazette, he wrote: ‘There was extremely strong opposition to much of this, in particular the scant disregard for the neighbourhood plan and especially the intrusive three-four storey retirement home on the opposite side of the agreed green space from the plan.’

He said that ‘a lot of people are very concerned by the scale of this scheme and the proposals have caused shock’.

He also called on the Estates to have more detailed discussions with local residents, ‘so we can understand each other better’. A number of objectors have subsequently written letters to the Gazette (see page 38).

Opponents also spoke out against the scheme during the exhibition. One objector said: “Something needs to be done with the building, but I can’t say I am happy with what they are proposing. The Avenue will be horrendous – I do worry about the access.”

Another resident, who lives in nearby Percy Street, said: “I want to see this building retained, but I don’t think this is the right development.

“I am unhappy about the volume of traffic it will generate, especially along The Avenue, which I think will be a problem. Then you’ll have the issue of construction vehicles.

“The impact on the drainage system is also a concern, because it’s already creaky, without these extra houses.”

However, not all were against, and there were those at the exhibition who were in favour. One resident said: “I think it is an excellent idea – they are making the most of the building.”

Another supporter said: “The devil will be in the detail, but generally, I am positive about the scheme.

“I would rather see a brownfield development in the middle of the town, like this, than housing estates developing on the outskirts.”

Guy Munden, the Estates’ development planner, said: “The general feeling was overwhelming support for the conversion and refurbishment, particularly after people saw the state that the building is in and the potential to bring this iconic historic building back into use.

“Also well received were plans for opening up the site for public use as open green space, formalising footpath links into the town and securing recreational use for the long-term.

“Support was also strong for the proposed elderly living accommodation and bungalows, with locals recognising the need for this type of accommodation in a well-located position with easy town centre access.”

A planning application will be submitted this autumn, but the Estates welcomes feedback. For more details, visit northumberlandestates.co.uk