Blaenavon heritage site school set to be demolished

A SCHOOL lying within the Blaenavon World Heritage Site is set to be knocked down despite concerns its demolition would remove a building that has contributed to the mining history of the town.

Torfaen councillors backed plans to demolish Hillside Primary in the town recognised for embodying the industrial revolution with landmarks including the Big Pit, ironworks, public buildings and the railway station.

Primary school teacher Nic Aldridge, 35, spoke against the plans to demolish the 1906 school in Upper Hill Street at a planning meeting on Tuesday night.

But Torfaen planning committee unanimously endorsed proposals to turn the site into a development comprising 52 homes.

Mr Aldridge said: “This World Heritage status was not rewarded because of an individual structure, not because of a blast furnace or a mining museum but because of the wider story.

“This tale is not just of technological advancement, but of people, social reform, religion and education.

“The council also has a responsibility for the long-term impacts that development has on the World Heritage Site.”

Mike Devereux, of Upper Hill Street, also spoke against the forthcoming demolition, saying a bulldozer would erase a lifetime of memories.

Mr Devereux, 56, said: "There is a heartfelt connection to the building, to the old school.

"I think it was a given, it was inevitable the plan was going to be given the go-ahead.

"People get attached to a building then a bulldozer can destroy a lifetime of memories."

Torfaen council acknowledged that the school was a "historic building" of local significance but stressed it did add much to the understanding of the industrial revolution having been built in 1905.

Hillside School shut in 2011 and its pupils moved into the £13m Blaenavon Heritage Voluntary Controlled Primary School in Upper Coedcae Road.

Social landlord Melin Homes is to build 52 affordable homes at the site.

Melin Homes agents, Asbri Planning, said that a viable conversion for the school building could not be found and stressed the development would bring affordable housing to the area.

Torfaen councillors approved the plans at Pontypool Civic Centre during a meeting attended by around 10 members of the public.

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