An application for housing at a redundant Grade II listed former school in Tavistock has been turned down by the borough council’s planning committee.

The former Hazeldon Preparatory School on Parkwood Road, which is owned by the independent Mount Kelly School, has been vacant for ten years.

The development management and licensing committee at West Devon Borough Council turned down permission for ten open market homes on the 4.6 hectare site, including a cottage and barn complex, alongside the refurbishment of the house which has been subject to attacks of vandalism.

School governor and chair of the Mount Kelly estates management group Keith Hollinshead said this was the “only viable option” to save the 1830s Hazeldon House, with funds from the development to be used to restore it.

However, planning officers at WDBC advised turning down the application as no affordable housing was provided and it was in an “unsustainable” location.

Councillors were divided on the application, with the vote was decided ultimately by chairman Terry Southcott’s (Con, Bridestowe) casting vote.

Cllr Ursula Mann (Ind, Tavistock North) said she couldn’t see why the site was considered unsustainable when it was a 30-minute flat walk into town, a brownfield site, and on the main A386 with buses going past.

Cllr Caroline Mott (Con, Bridestowe) said she agreed with the officers that the development itself would not bring economic gain to the town but it did fit in with the rest of the ‘Kelly’ site and the house was “an excellent example” of the town’s heritage.

 The plan replaces a much larger scheme for 81 homes, which was also rejected by West Devon Borough Council several years ago.

Keith Hollinshead, School governor and Chair of the Mount Kelly Estates Management Group said, “The decision made last week by West Devon Borough Council is extremely disappointing, not just for Mount Kelly, but for the people and town of Tavistock and its significant heritage traditions.

“Tavistock is a lovely market town with a very important history, evidenced not least by many of its main buildings, which are of considerable interest and attraction, and which bring visitors to the town. This, in turn, keeps its economy buoyant, with Mount Kelly being a major contributor to that economy.

“The planning scheme proposed by the school was prepared in close collaboration with, and in satisfaction of the requirements of the Council’s own Heritage Officer. It was the only viable scheme (limited to ten new houses) which ensures this important historic building will be preserved. The house is in a poor condition and the market dwellings would have subsidised the works required and community initiatives undertaken by Mount Kelly.”

Hazeldon House was built in the 1830’s and designed by a prominent architect of the day. The council unilaterally decided to list the building with English Heritage in 2018, believing it was a house of great importance and value for the local heritage. The recent planning refusal by the same council blocks a clear route to restoring this important town asset.

“Excepting those foresighted Council Members who voted in favour of the scheme, this decision can only be interpreted as telling the good people of Tavistock that the importance of their local heritage is not really important at all,” Keith Hollinshead concluded.