PRESS RELEASE: SAVE unveils alternative plans to retain historic Welsh school

30th October 2020

Historic buildings don’t require the wrecking ball

More than 5500 local people have petitioned the Welsh Assembly to halt the demolition of a landmark Victorian School, but the Hafod Housing Association which is seeking planning permission to level the school has insisted it lacks the funds to preserve the old buildings. 
Now SAVE Britain’s Heritage, working with the architect Philip Tilbury, has produced an alternative scheme. The scheme shows that converting the generous spaces in the old school and building on the land beside it will produce an attractive and spacious mix of housing that can conform with the local development plan. It can also potentially provide an equal or better return to Sir Thomas Mansel Franklen Trust, the charity which is selling the site. 
Cowbridge school opened in September 1896 as the first all-girls school to be built in Wales following the pioneering Welsh Education Act of 1889 and included dormitory accommodation for boarders. The petition to the Welsh Assembly objecting to demolition launched in May 2020 by concerned local residents drew 5541 signatures in just six weeks, 541 more than the required threshold to trigger a National Assembly debate.  

Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage says: “Glamorgan has long been a stone county, with civic, church and domestic buildings handsomely built of the best stone, imported as well as local.  Welsh masons and builders count among the best in Britain and the essential qualities of architecture, ‘beauty, strength and usefulness’ are expressed in streets and schools like this.  It is telling that so many local people feel so strongly about this important Glamorgan landmark”

Binney continues, “Our scheme is designed to meet the strong call from local people for the school to be restored and retrofitted, providing an attractive mix of houses and apartments for local people and to provide a fair return on the property to the charity which owns it.” 

Philip Tilbury, the architect of the scheme says: “The Victorian School is large and there is ample space to create 23 apartments. On the adjacent land we have proposed 12 new apartments and two new houses.  The new homes will be laid out around two separate courtyards to create a village feel.  We will avoid tarmac and use permeable bonded gravel or block paving for sustainability in managing surface water run-off whilst ensuring safe access for disabled.  Dwarf walls and railings will complement the street scene. There will be carparking and bike storage as well as pleasant gardens.  The new buildings will be lime rendered to harmonise with the stone of the school.” 

Dr Tudur Davies of local campaign group Save Cowbridge Girls' School says: "We welcome these plans which show, given some imagination and innovation, the old girls school can once again be brought to life, clearly demonstrating that it is possible to provide much needed housing on this site without bulldozing our history. These attractive designs rightly allow the school to stand proud as a testament to the significant contribution it played in paving the way for equal opportunities in the education of girls."

Ben Oakley, conservation officer at SAVE Britain’s Heritage says: “This school building was the first of its kind when built and educated many generations of the Cowbridge community right up to 2010. The recent petition has clearly shown this same community not only values their heritage, but wishes to see it restored and reused, not left for the wrecking ball.”

SAVE approached Mr Tilbury to draw up the scheme following his very successful conversion of the disused Victorian Sanatorium originally built for Eton College, which he converted into seven apartments with a terrace of five new houses on adjacent land. Here the conservation option, saving the old building, provided a more attractive solution that the original proposal for total demolition.  SAVE is now looking for a sympathetic developer to take forward the scheme. 


 Note to editors

1. For more information and images contact Ben Oakley, Conservation Officer at SAVE Britain's Heritage: / 07388 181 181.

2. Click here for further history on the school

3. SAVE Britain’s Heritage has been campaigning for historic buildings since its formation in 1975 by a group of architectural historians, writers, journalists and planners. It is a strong, independent voice in conservation, free to respond rapidly to emergencies and to speak out loud for the historic built environment.

4. See here for details on our current campaigns.