Building plans could fail over grades

20th February 2004 at 00:00
A college has warned that a pound;5 million development of learning facilities in one of the most sensitive sites in the country is a key to securing its future.

But Kingston Maurward college, in Dorset, is set to face strong principled objections to the plan because it is in the centre of a historic landscape.

It lies between two Grade I-listed mansions and is next door to Grade II-listed gardens and park.

Andrew Thomson, the owner of the Elizabethan Old Manor House luxury guesthouse, fears it could ruin the setting of his Grade I listed building.

The main part of the college is in Kingston Maurward House, a Grade I-listed 18th-century Palladian building overlooking the development.

The college has scaled down plans it put forward for consultation last year after receiving some objections to them.

Managers have submitted the new proposals to West Dorset District Council after consultations with English Heritage and the Garden History Society.

They say the plans for a new library, an IT suite, science laboratory, 50 en-suite student bedrooms and an open-air amphitheatre are needed to modernise the college.

The land-based college developed the blueprint after a critical assessment of the use of its 750-acre estate by property consultants Chesterton International last year. Like many once-traditional agricultural colleges, it had suffered a fall in numbers in recent years and needed to invest and make more of its resources to arrest the decline.

Ivan Smith, director of commercial development, said: "This will be the biggest investment in the college and the most exciting development for years. If we are to satisfy the educational needs of the college, this is the only viable option and is the key to securing the future."

He said that with 4,000 full and part-time students in courses such as agricultture, horticulture, floristry, animal care, IT and countryside, management needed to make itself more attractive to students.

The new two-storey buildings would replace two 1970s prefabricated buildings serving as a library and classrooms. But Mr Thomson said the college could only be compounding an error made by planners in the 1970s when they allowed the "temporary" classrooms under duress.

He has invested heavily in restoring the Old Manor and would like to restore the unspoilt setting of the two houses at either end of the historic parkland.

Mr Thomson said: "I think the site we are talking about is like no other, with two Grade I-listed manor houses in a historic park. There is nothing else like it in Dorset."

Guests pay up to pound;120 per night for the privilege of staying in period-style bedrooms in the Old Manor, which he has restored with the blessing of English Heritage.

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