PRESERVING historic parts of an old Stourbridge school could leave college bosses £1million out of pocket, a packed public meeting was told.
The former Longlands School site in Brook Street has long been tipped to become a new housing development and, at a meeting at Greenfield Primary School last Friday (July 4), senior managers from Birmingham Metropolitan College – which owns most of the land - admitted plans were being worked up back in 2013 to accommodate 35 to 40 new homes on the site.
The college’s head of capital development and acquisitions Stephen Manners told the meeting, organised by Stourbridge MP Margot James, that a further 12 to 15 homes could also be built on neighbouring former school land owned by Dudley Council.
But he admitted trying to preserve the old 1912 quadrangle part of the school , which is locally listed in Dudley, would reduce the site’s worth by £1million.
He said: “It’s worth in the order of £2million – if we retain the quadrangle buildings it’s probably worth less than half. Any conversion of these old buildings will cost a lot of money.”
Mr Manners said they could be turned into bungalows for the elderly or hostels for the homeless but such schemes would produce little revenue and he added “Clearly we want to maximise the amount of money we can get out of this site.”
He said the proposal for new homes was prepared back when the site was owned by Stourbridge College in January 2013 and that meetings had taken place with Dudley planners who stressed a strong case would be required for permission to be granted to demolish locally listed buildings.
Mary Cox, Dudley Council’s head of property management and valuations, said college bosses and developers “should be looking for a viable way to bring it back to use” and she added: “It’s an important site for the community and it’s of architectural merit and should be looked to be preserved before going straight to demolition.”
Resident John Milner, however, accused college chiefs of leaving the derelict and vandal-hit school and former art college site to go to wrack and ruin so “it won’t be repairable”.
Meanwhile, ward councillor Nic Barlow said: “I think we need to move on what can be done - like demolition of the later buildings; at the moment it’s no good to anybody. It might be one less problem for the residents who have to put up with it on a daily basis.”
And MP Ms James called for security to be stepped up, in the wake of arson attacks, until development plans can be progressed.
She said: “I’m a strong advocate of CCTV so I’ll be pushing for that. I’ll be pushing for the college to do more to secure the site and for the police to give more support to the college to deter the criminality that’s going on there.”
College estates director John Starmer said bosses had already "ramped up security" by introducing mobile patrols and offering up contact numbers for people to call if they spot intruders but he added: "As much as we're trying to keep them out, they'll find a way if they want to get in there."