Grantham College’s plan to use the old police station at Stonebridge House for classrooms and administrative facilities was given the green light this afternoon.
However, the proposal did not sail as smoothly through the committee as it might well have due to councillors only receiving important information at the 11th hour.
Councillors had initially been told the Grade II listed Stonebridge House would only be used as an administrative facility but once the development control committee meeting begun it became clear the college also planned to have two or three classrooms on site.
Coun Charmaine Morgan, having also voiced concerns about an increase in on-street parking effecting residents in the area, argued the application should be deferred on the grounds the consultation process was carried out on the understanding there would be no classrooms.
Coun Morgan was concerned some residents in the area may have raised objections had they known this when they were consulted.
However, chairman of the committee Coun Martin Wilkins said the changes were not substantial enough to warrant further consultation.
He said: “I don’t believe further consultation is required.”
Coun Michael King concurred, arguing that although the councillors were “all a bit surprised by the classroom use” which may have left some on the committee feeling “a bit upset they did not know about this before”, he said the application should still be judged on its merits and planning implications.
Coun King said: “I think this application has to be a good thing for Grantham.
“This building, I understand, has stood in an empty condition for some considerable time now and if allowed to do that for much longer would subsequently deteriorate.
“I think it is an important site in the town that needs putting to use.”
The application is temporary only, allowing the former Grantham police station to be used for teaching and administrative matters for up to three years.
Andy Ward, speaking on behalf of R G & P, the agent for Grantham College, told councillors there would be no increase in the number of pupils attending the school as a result of this temporary measure.
He said: “It involves an element of teaching space to relieve pressure on the current site. It is not for additional students, just to relieve existing pressures until the full plans for the whole site are drawn up.”
Mr Ward made reference to a future “masterplan” for the whole college site which would likely come before councillors at some point in the future.
Stonebridge House has stood vacant since 2007 and Mr Ward argued having it occupied would be of benefit to everyone.
He said: “The occupation of the site by the college is of great benefit to the well-being of the site. Because of the length of time it has been left vacant there has been elements of vandalism, misuse and people sleeping rough on the site.”
Councillors voted by 12 votes to three in favour of the proposal which includes a limit of 10 car parking spaces and access from Stonebridge Road only.
Using Stonebridge House for teaching and administrative matters will not require much work on the building itself.
Two new fire doors will be installed along with the installation of a broadband antenna.
The council’s planning officers consider the work to be “of such a minor nature and being carried out on the more modern element of the building that there will be no adverse impact on the character of the listed building”.