PRESS RELEASE: SAVE decries needless destruction of historic Edwardian school
Demolition of the 110 year old Longmead school begun in mid-August 2020 (S Maulucci)
Local residents attend a protest against demolition in July 2020 (S Maulucci)
The Longmead in 2008, following closure as an Adult Education Centre (Victorian Society)
The Longmead in spring 2020 before demolition work begun (S Maulucci)
The first floor hall remains in tact and structurally sound (D Stacey)
Demolition is sadly well underway (S Maulucci)
The four gables of the Longmead retain a striking presence (S Maulucci)
22nd August 2020
Scandalous waste of £280,000 on demolition to create a carpark.
SAVE Britain’s Heritage has condemned the demolition of a historic Edwardian school in the railway town of Redhill by owners Surrey County Council which begun on the 12th August 2020. Located close to the centre of Redhill, the Longmead School has stood the tests of time for 110 years but has lain vacant since 2007.
In June 2019 Surrey County Council granted themselves permission to bulldoze the school under permitted development rights, citing that the building had become unsafe “due to the vandalism which has left the building in a bad state of dereliction.” However, this claim runs contrary to the conclusions of a structural survey report commissioned by the council in 2014 which confirmed “The building fabric is in sound structural condition, but a considerable amount [of] work would be required to bring it to a good condition.”
Surrey County Council's plans were also objected to by the local authority Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, which requested that “all opportunities to retain the building through conversion and refurbishment or partial redevelopment and façade retention should be explored fully prior to any demolition proceeding.”
Keen to see the historic building and the large surrounding site re-used, local residents came out in numbers to support a campaign against demolition launched by The Redhill Community Trust. With the support of five local councillors, the Trust setup a petition to the council in June 2020 which gained over 1200 signatures calling on them to reconsider demolition in favour of refurbishing and transforming the site into a new community centre and work hub.
SAVE has written to council Leader Tim Oliver requesting he halt demolition and engage in discussions for converting the building as part of the council’s plans for the site. In the meantime, an emergency listing application by the Victorian Society and an application to register Longmead as an ‘Asset of Community Value’ have been turned down.
The petition was heard by the council at a Cabinet meeting on the 23rd June 2020, with the Community Trust presenting alternative plans for repairing and converting the Longmead, commissioned from a local architect. Yet despite these efforts, Surrey County Council reaffirmed their determination to tear down the school to make way for a 43 car park spaces and a temporary modular building.
As our pictures show, the demolition process has now commenced. A Freedom of Information Request has revealed the cost of raising the building to the ground is set to cost upwards of £280,000 of public money.
Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage says: “we strongly deplore the needless demolition of this striking example of Edwardian school architecture. For years Surrey County Council was exemplary in its policies on environment and heritage. This demolition of a robust building built to last two centuries and more is an affront to its own sustainability policies. The County Council is supposed to be the guardian of local heritage.
“There are dozens of examples of similar schools handsomely converted to new uses, notably residential. The Longmead School is similar to the London Board Schools admired by Sherlock Holmes ‘Beacons of Learning My Dear Watson’. Even at this late hour we call on the leader of Surrey County Council to call off the demolition men and give locals a chance.”
London Schools successfully converted in this way include The Lanterns, Bridge Road, Battersea; The Village, Latchmere Rd Battersea; Southside Quarter, Burns Road, Battersea; The Lycee, Stannary Street, Kennington; Greenwich Academy, Greenwich High Street, The Paragon, Searles Road, Bermondsey and Victoria Road, Hackney.
Ben Oakley, conservation officer at SAVE Britain’s Heritage says: “In an age of rising awareness regarding climate change and the important positive role retaining historic buildings has in climate and cultural heritage terms, Surrey County Council’s determination to tear down the Longmead would appear short-sighted and anachronistic.”
Originally named the Cromwell Road School, the Longmead Centre building was opened in January 1910 to designs of architect Thomas Rowland Hooper (1845 – 1937). The school closed in 1987, and subsequently became the Longmead Adult Education Centre, operating until 2007.
SAVE has long campaigned to successfully secure the re-use of such historic school buildings, as showcased in our 2018 report, Too good to lose: Historic schools at risk. In his foreword introducing this report, HRH The Prince of Wales comments:
“Whilst a significant number of schools are listed buildings, or stand in conservation areas, many have no statutory protection and are vulnerable to summary demolition. It is vital that we act now to preserve this essential part of our heritage. Our remarkable Victorian and Edwardian schools were built to a very high standard with the intention of lasting a very long time.”
1. For more information contact Ben Oakley, conservation officer at SAVE Britain's Heritage – firstname.lastname@example.org / 07388 181 181.
2. SAVE Britain's Heritage is a strong, independent voice in conservation that has been fighting for threatened historic buildings and sustainable reuses since 1975. We stand apart from other organisations by bringing together architects, engineers, planners and investors to offer viable alternative proposals. Where necessary, and with expert advice, we take legal action to prevent major and needless losses.
3. See here for details on our current campaigns.