Last ditch attempt to save Calderdale school building

Ferney Lee Primary School, Todmorden.
Ferney Lee Primary School, Todmorden.

A petition has been started urging Calderdale Council to save a Todmorden school building from demolition and look to sell it to developers instead

Calderdale Council’s Planning Committee and Cabinet agreed following a feasability study into upgrading or replacing the Ferney Lee building that a new build was the most effective option and the one preferred by the headteacher and governors, with £4 million being invested.

The building’s history – as the former Todmorden Grammar School building the town’s two Nobel prizewinners, Sir John Cockcroft and Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson, were both educated there – has spurred petitioners to call for it to be sold to developers to create homes while retaining the facade.

But the council says the land it stands on is needed for a legally-required play area for the new school, which is being built elsewhere on the site.

The petition has more than 175 signatures in a week so far, and which its organisers hope to present to Calderdale’s Full Council meeting in June, argues that now the issue of a new school being built and the fate of the old building have been separated, it might be saved by putting it up for sale to developers.

The petition, which is online at https://www.thepetitionsite.com/en-gb/864/321/113/the-clock-is-ticking-save-ferney-lee-grammar-school-building – says: “It is a fine, old building of the early 20th century, designed by a local architect and constructed by local builders. Two separate Nobel prize winners had their early science education there.

“Calderdale Council appear not to have considered alternative uses for the building, nor to have put it on the open market. Calder Valley Community Land Trust are indicating that they may be interested in refurbishing it to provide housing for local people.”

But Calderdale Council’s Cabinet member for Children and Young People’s Services, Councillor Megan Swift, said that in order to ensure that facilities are fit for purpose and meet modern education standards, the Council has invested £4 million in building a new state-of-the-art school at Ferney Lee.

“The old Ferney Lee school building is in a poor state of repair, the cost of trying to maintain it would have been a scandalous waste of public money and it is scheduled for demolition once pupils move into the new build.

“The site of the old building is required for the new school’s legally required outdoor play area for the children, plus access road and car parking so that children can access and leave the site safely in the future,” she said.

“Decisions like this are not made lightly, and a number of options were considered for the future of the school, with a feasibility study carried out by external architects.

“Following this study, it was agreed by Calderdale Council’s Planning Committee and Cabinet that a new build was the best and most effective solution for pupils and teaching staff at the school.

“This was also the preferred option for the headteacher and school governors who have been involved with the consultation process throughout.

“Work on the new school is progressing well, and the new facility is due to be open for the start of term in September 2018.”