‘Gaping hole’ appears in historic old school

Roger Shelley outside the former grammar school in Belper
Roger Shelley outside the former grammar school in Belper

A GAPING hole has appeared in a wall at an historic former school in Belper, says the town’s Civic Forum.

Residents living nearby the old Belper Grammar School, which is on Chapel Street, were said to have heard a “loud explosion-like noise”.

Grammar school

Grammar school

The finding was made after members of Belper Civic Forum conducted door-to-door enquiries to get local opinion on what has been happening on the site of the 180-year-old building during work being carried out by the owners.

Forum member Roger Shelley, who conducted the consultation with Robert Dowling, said: “During the door-to-door consultation we were told that there had been a loud explosion-like noise earlier, and it is now possible to see a gaping hole in part of the north wall of the building.

“There also seems to have been a girder collapse.”

Mr Shelley added that the school was described by a planning inspector in 2008 as “making a positive and important contribution to the town’s history and to the distinctive character and appearance of the World Heritage Site”.

He continued: “We fear that without rapid and effective action, the old Grammar School will become Belper’s equivalent of the Derby Hippodrome.”

The empty building is owned by Chevin Property, of Brailsford.

Rob Thorley, the borough council’s community planning manager, said: “The council’s building control team were called to the property and have agreed a procedure with the owners that involves taking down loose masonry and doing some repair work to the roof.

“The loose masonry has been removed and the works to the roof are to be carried out this week.

“Sheeting is also being erected to cover the roof to prevent any further deterioration of the building through water penetration.

“As the building is not listed by English Heritage, the council only has powers under the Building Act to require work to be carried out to protect the safety of the general public.

“The owners have carried out work to address concerns regarding the appearance of the building but we will, of course, continue to monitor its condition.

“We are acutely aware of the building’s significance in terms of its part in the history of the town and in relation to its position in the World Heritage Site and the Conservation Area. These are, and will be, major factors in any future development or planning considerations for the site.”