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Calls for old school building to be saved after major fire

Calls for old school building to be saved after major fire

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 7:06am 9th July 2020. (Updated at 6:27pm 9th July 2020)

A Cornish MP is calling for officials to do everything they can to save an old school building which has been gutted by fire.

A major blaze broke out at the former Carclaze Infants School building in St Austell during the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Firefighters from across the Duchy were called to the scene to tackle the blaze and the roof of the building has been destroyed.

Steve Double, the MP for the area, says he has been campaigning for years to safeguard the future of the historic building.

He told Pirate FM he wants to see it turned into a community centre and also affordable housing.

Now he has written an open letter to Cornwall Council, urging them to restore the old school so it can be used in the future.

carclaze infants school fire

His letter reads: "I am writing to you following the devastating fire this morning at the old Carclaze School in St Austell.

"As you know I have been in correspondence with Cornwall Council about the future of this site for at least four years. The lack of any progress in restoring the site to a meaningful use has been incredibly frustrating, and the site has been allowed to deteriorate and become an eyesore in the community.

"The views of the community have always been clear, that at the very least, whatever the future use of this building, its historic and iconic frontage should have been maintained. 

carclaze infants school fire

"This building was originally gifted to the community. It is part of our local heritage and history and is so dear to many of us who live in this area of St Austell. Eminent Cornish historian and scholar AL Rowse was a former pupil and several generations of local families, including my own, started their education at this school.

"It is incredibly sad that due to dither and delay by Cornwall Council and its partners that this building was allowed to degenerate to the state it got into and has now been consumed by fire.

"I would like your urgent assurances as to the future of this site and that if at all possible, it be restored for future use as part of the community which it once served."

Steve Double, MP for St Austell and Newquay

Steve Double
Steve Double MP

"It’s very sad to see the damage that the fire has caused to a building that has such historical significance and means so much to the local community. 

"Our thanks go to the fire service for their prompt response in tackling the blaze. 

"We’re also offering support to the nursery that operates from the adjoining building so that they can continue to open and offer a service to local families.

"The building and the site have proved to be a challenge and the Council has been working for some time with local elected members and residents on plans to make best use of it for the benefit of the community. 

"It has taken some time to pursue and exhaust various avenues and we had recently agreed terms to transfer the site to Cornwall Rural Housing Association to convert the old school building and grounds into new affordable homes for local people.  

"Initial planning advice indicated that this was an appropriate alternative use, subject to local consultation.  

"It was intended that these ideas would have been consulted on over the last few months, but of course, COVID has intervened in that process. 

"We have our property team and representatives from Cornwall Rural Housing Association visiting the site to assess the damage and discuss next steps in light of what has just happened.  

"Clearly, we have to identify a route to create a viable alternative use, whilst also protecting the nursery provision. 

"In the longer term, we have recently committed to a programme of work with local members, stakeholders and other partners in St Austell to examine the wants and needs of the communities that make up the town and the surrounding areas so we can come together with a plan to make the most of the potential that the area has to offer, and identify the key projects that are needed to support the economy of the town.  

"Initial discussions and workshops have commenced virtually over the last month."

Cornwall Council

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