Bats hold up work at old college site in Chelmsford

The development of a dilapidated former school has been delayed due to bats taking up residence inside the building.

As many as 163 homes are being planned for land on the former St Peter’s College in Chelmsford’s Fox Crescent – with taxpayers bankrolling the initial stages of the multi-million pound development.

Essex County Council had agreed to initially invest £1.7milion into achieving planning permission from Chelmsford City Council and in obtaining government grant funding of £925,000 towards demolition and enabling works to facilitate the housing and education scheme at the site – a plan that could make it millions of pounds in profit.

But costs of £875,000 will now have to be spent next year – because of delays to demolition due to bats found in some buildings and the buildings’ potential historic value.

The site, which is less than one mile from Chelmsford City Centre, is in a predominantly suburban residential area and consists of the former secondary school buildings, that are in a poor state of repair, as well as parking, play areas and playing fields, which have been largely untouched since the school closed in 2011.

The former Rainsford High School and St Peter’s site has been underutilised for a number of years.

The building is in disrepair and the site has also been subject to anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping.

An area of the site has been earmarked for the provision of two new special educational needs free schools to be named Fox and Hawthorn after their locations in Fox Crescent and Hawthorns.

The slippage £875,000 funding is anticipated to now be spent next year rather than this year.

The county council has said that although bats have impacted upon demolition this year, it does not prevent the site being brought forward for planning, which is ongoing.

Once the scheme has planning permission, it will obtain a bat licence to mitigate the issue and demolish the affected buildings. 

It will seek to demolish those buildings not affected by bats prior to that.

Essex County Council cabinet member Cllr Gagan Mohindra said: “In terms of St Peter’s College we continue to have a large property pipeline and St Peter’s happens to be one of them.

“Once it is all done subject to planning and correct surveys I’m sure we will be all proud of what happens there.”

St Peter’s College. Photo: Chelmsford.gov.uk

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter