Swaffham's old school to be redeveloped into housing amid vandalism fears

The 18th-century old school house on Swaffham's Market Place

The 18th-century old school house on Swaffham's Market Place, pictured in 2018. The windows of both buildings have since been boarded up. - Credit: Google

A run-down former school site in the heart of Swaffham, which has been repeatedly targeted by vandals, is to be transformed into housing.

The proposal to convert the former Hamond's Grammar School, at the top of the town’s Market Place, has received unanimous approval from members of Breckland Council’s planning committee.

It will see the school site - the grounds of which already included boarding accommodation, a gymnasium and a classroom building dating from 1900 - reconfigured into a development comprising 18 homes. 

The buildings at the front of the site, on the Market Place, date from the 18th century, and will be converted to become two new large homes - one with five bedrooms and the other with four. 

The gymnasium, accessed via Whitsands Road, would meanwhile be converted into four properties, with a further 12 to be located in the space between the gymnasium and the main building on the Market Place. 

Six of those 12 would utilise the existing classroom block, with the other half being new-build townhouses.

At the committee meeting on Tuesday, August 2, the developer’s agent, John Putman, said: “The scheme offers the opportunity to resurrect an historic and prominent yet vulnerable and derelict site. 

Breckland Council has voted to extend the Breckland Bridge Partnership. Picture: Archant

Breckland Council's headquarters in Dereham, where the planning committee met on Tuesday. - Credit: IAN BURT

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“The buildings are continually subject to vandalism, the latest being an arson attack late last night which fortunately did not result in severe damage.

“However the school summer holidays and long evenings continue to place the historic site in considerable danger of severe if not total loss.”

None of the housing is planned as affordable, but the developer is expected to instead make a roughly £30,000 contribution to help pay for improvements to library facilities, funding for nearby natural habitats and education facilities in the local area. 

An earlier version of the scheme, rejected by councillors in 2020, had proposed a total of 20 housing units on the site, which had been cut down to 18 for this new version.

Nigel Wilkin, centre, who woke his neighbours, Mandy and David 'Scooby' Whitehair, and warned them o

Conservative councillor Nigel Wilkin - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

The committee’s Conservative chair, Nigel Wilkin said: “This is a long-winded application, it’s been with us a long while.

“It is very much a building at risk and it’s something that we need to get moving before it gets burnt to the ground, intentionally or not.”