Green group wants old school recycled not bulldozed
By Blackmore Vale Magazine | Friday, April 27, 2012, 11:00
OPEN space campaigners fear their chance of using a former school for green education will disappear under new houses in Blandford.
David Astin, chairman of Blandford green space group The Milldowners, is sending out a rallying cry to bring pressure on Dorset County Council to listen to their ideas.
The council, as Dorset Development Partnership, is holding a community engagement event in Blandford on Tuesday to explore proposals for housing on three sites.
One proposal - for up to 43 homes on the former Milldown Middle School site in Blandford - has sparked anger in The Milldowners.
Chairman David Astin said the group had previously discussed the possibility of using the school buildings for a Trailway Centre and new offices for the Rangers who look after the 15-hectare Milldown land that adjoins the disused school.
He said: "We understood from the council that it might be possible to use these buildings to offer facilities for Trailway users and to teach children about conservation and wildlife.
"Instead it seems the county council wants to rip down these buildings to make way for housing and is not looking at the long term opportunity to benefit this community."
Mr Astin added: "There is a lot of enthusiasm here - we could do the work on those buildings. I am confident it could be done."
He has sent an open letter to Blandford residents urging them to attend the event on Tuesday to express their views.
He said: "We have only heard about it at short notice but I hope that enough pressure can be brought to ensure our views are included in any plans for that site."
The middle school closed as part of a reorganisation of schools in the Blandford area. It was used until 2010 while work was completed on accommodation elsewhere for students.
A Dorset County Council spokeswoman said the authority was working in partnership with a developer with a view to demolishing the school buildings and erecting new homes.
She said: "The building was decommissioned and is in very poor repair. It would need a large amount of work done to make it suitable for community projects.
"It was always an absolute no to the community using the building."
The public consultation event is at the town's Corn Exchange on Tuesday from 4pm to 8pm.
It will also look at two other proposals - for 12 dwellings at the former Beeches Hostel in Blandford and up to 22 homes at Blandford Depot on Wimborne Road.
The spokeswoman said: "This is still very early but people can see initial ideas and give feedback.
"There will be other opportunities for people to find out more."
Planning applications for all the sites will eventually be submitted to North Dorset District Council.