Former art college sold

PUBLISHED: 10:14 28 May 2008 | UPDATED: 11:07 03 July 2010

GREAT Yarmouth's dilapidated former art college is being sold to a housing association which is to restore the landmark listed building and turn it into affordable homes.

GREAT Yarmouth's dilapidated former art college is being sold to a housing association which is to restore the landmark listed building and turn it into affordable homes.

The state of the college - described by borough conservation officer Stephen Earl as “one of the town's most important listed buildings” - was put in the spotlight three years ago when it was exposed as a drugs den increasingly targeted by vandals and vagrants.

Council leaders and local guesthouse owners had become increasingly concerned that the tatty building would detract from the £2m improvement work to neighbouring St George's Park, and earlier this year the owner, local developer David Fish, was given a legal ultimatum to tidy up the site.

Borough council cabinet member for regeneration Graham Plant described the sale by Mr Fish to the Flagship Housing Group - the largest provider of affordable homes in the Eastern region - as “brilliant news”.

He said: “It comes at a fitting time after the formal opening of the new-look park on Friday. With that work completed the college is the only eyesore left around it. Once the restoration of this important building gets under way it is going to look marvellous next to the park.”

Mr Earl said: “The college is a very important listed building, dating to 1912, and designed by the architect JW Cockrill. The whole façade is very impressive and it has very important terra cotta details.”

A high-quality development would not only restore the building to its former glory but also enhance the surrounding area.

Philip Oldman, a director of Lowestoft-based Wellington Construction, which will carry out the scheme for the Norwich-based housing group, said its architects had last week met with borough council officers to discuss detailed plans. He said: “The building has existing planning permission for 14 mainly two-bedroom flats but we are looking at ways of increasing that number and negotiations are going forward on this. One possibility might be an extension at the back. It would have to be in keeping with the area and the college design, but it would do a lot for the elevation of the building as the rear is not aesthetically pleasing to the eye.”

Mr Oldman ­ reassured local residents, frustrated by years of inaction under Mr Fish's ownership, that they hoped to begin work on site in October, and the development would be finished in a year.

Doug Malins, head of business development at Flagship Housing Group, confirmed they were in the process of buying the college, and

the sale was likely to be completed within weeks.

He said: “All the flats will be for affordable housing and our proposal has the support of Yarmouth Borough Council. It is likely there will be a mix of both rented and shared ownership homes. The art college is a listed building and any construction work will maintain the listed nature of the building.”

Mr Malins would not disclose the purchase price.

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