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Historic ice houses will be protected, Newbury headteacher says

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St Gabriel's head answers concerns from Greenham Parish Council

Historic ice houses at a Grade 2-listed farmhouse will not be harmed as part of a school’s expansion plans, its principal has promised.

At a recent Greenham Parish Council meeting in which councillors discussed St Gabriel’s School’s planned use of the farmhouse for a sixth form, councillors expressed concerns that the adjoining ice houses could be damaged or lost if conversion plans were given the go-ahead.

Plans for the redevelopment of the 0.577-hectare site and Grade II-listed farmhouse with adjoining ice houses were first put forward to West Berkshire Council in April.

As part of the plan, the building would be converted into a facility with space for five classrooms, a common room with kitchen, two offices and toilet facilities.

No new vehicle accesses are proposed, with the school’s existing access via the A339 and a walking route to the main school building.

The architect for the project, Gotelee Orchard-Lisle, said: “The current facilities are limited and do not enable the school to provide a dedicated sixth-form space, apart from two common rooms. This is something that many state and independent schools are able to provide.

“The aim is provision of a dedicated facility that engenders a separate identity for the sixth form, in recognition of this step change in pupil’s education, allowing pupils to remain at the school, thus providing continuity and benefitting their education.”

At a Greenham Parish Council meeting held on May 11, however, councillors raised con-cern over the impact on the historic ice houses, which sit next to the farmhouse.

Referring to planning documents, council clerk Roger Chester said: “It appears to show the ice houses knocked down.”

Parish councillor Arthur Johnson said: “[The site] needs to be protected because it’s one of the very few that is complete.”

He added: “In principle there is no problem with the application.”

The parish council did not object to the proposal outright, but summarised its position by stating: “GPC is happy, provided no damage is done to the ice houses.”

Arguing for the proposed development, school principal Alun Jones assured the council that there would be no disruption to the nearby buildings.

He said: “it is our intention that the adjoining ice houses would indeed be protected.

“We remain incredibly sensitive to the historic nature of our site; our use of the farmhouse would not have any impact on these outbuildings and students would not access these particular areas.

“Our purchase of Sandleford Farmhouse is intended to provide much-needed seminar-style teaching and learning space.

“The facility will deliver a significantly enhanced environment for our sixth-form students, providing a real taste of independence while ensuring that they remain an integral part of the wider school community.”

West Berkshire Council will determine the application at a later date.

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