176 homes to be built on former Bispham High School site

Up to 176  houses are set to be built on the site of a former Blackpool high school after the council received a cash boost to kick-start new developments.

Thursday, 16th May 2019, 10:59 pm
The site of the former Bispham school

Blackpool Council has submitted an outline planning application to redevelop the former Bispham High School on Bispham Road which closed in 2014.

The council has set aside £1m to prepare the land for investment after it received £3.1m of government funding last year to unlock potential development sites in its ownership.

A blueprint for the 22.5 acre site, which also includes playing fields and scrubland, reveals the main area for housing would be on the footprint of the now demolished school.

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The plans that have been lodged

Access would be from Bispham Road with some properties having driveways opening onto Kylemore Avenue.

The western part of the land would be split into two areas separated by public open space and landscaping, with the housing reached via the existing estate road through Regency Gardens to the south.

Previously up to 274 homes had been considered for the land, but it is now proposed to retain the existing playing fields in the north west corner of the site.

New public open space preserving trees and wildlife habitats would also be provided.

Scrubland at the school site

A design statement accompanying the application says the scheme would help to meet demand for new housing over the next five years, as well as developing land “which is currently an eyesore”.

It adds: “The majority of the application seeks outline permission only at this stage, with matters relating to access, layout, appearance, scale and landscaping reserved for future approval.

“Nevertheless, based on the proposed development parameters there is no reason why a high quality design in keeping with the character and appearance of the local area could not be secured at reserved matters stage.”

The scheme also includes relocating the cadet hut on Bispham Road. The building would be dismantled and relocated to another part of the site fronting Kylemore Avenue.

The former school is one of 22 sites in Blackpool designated for new homes in the town’s local plan setting out planning aims until 2027.

The rest of the £3.1m government grant includes £400,000 for Ryscar Way in Bispham where plans have been submitted for 47 houses, and £1.7m for a site on Blackpool Road, Poulton, which has yet to come forward for development.

Bispham High School was replaced by Aspire Academy on Blackpool Old Road after it closed.

The application will now be considered by town hall planners at a future date.

The site today and evidence of the vandalism which sparked calls for demolition. Top left, the plans for the site

An all girls’ school founded in the 1950s

Bispham High School was formerly an all girls’ school, founded in the 1950s.

Bispham was initially called Arnold High School for Girls, a girls’ grammar school, having been split from local public school Arnold School by the local council. Arnold Girls’ amalgamated with local girls’ secondary modern Claremont to become Arnold-Claremont in 1975, before changing its name to Greenlands (grey and gold uniform, 6th form wore bottle green uniform) in 1976.

The school had an 11 to 18 age range until 1989, when Blackpool Council separated from Lancashire County Council and moved A Levels to Blackpool Sixth Form College.

The school became Bispham High School (navy blue and yellow uniform), a co educational secondary school, a specialist Performing Arts College and a Centre of Excellence for Performing Arts in 2000.

At the last arts college redesignation, the school was judged exceptional in every criterion.

Plans to merge Bispham and Collegiate High School were under discussion from 2012 to 2014.

The new merged school (named Blackpool Aspire Academy) was formally created in September 2014, and is sponsored by the Fylde Coast Academy Trust.

Buildings reduced to rubble

Demolition crews worked for four months at a cost around £350,000 to reduce the school buildings to rubble.

The school buildings had become magnets for vandals and were razed to the ground to make them safe, but there were no concrete plans for what would replace them.

Talks to demolish the empty school, which housed Aspire Academy until its move to new facilities in nearby Blackpool Old Road, were held in October 2016.

Just days earlier, arsonists set fire to abandoned gym equipment inside it, while youngsters could be seen inside the grounds on several occasions, with the council saying ‘damage and disruption’ had been caused by numerous trespassers.

Police received several calls from neighbouring homes, including two in one night, when youths were spotted climbing on the roof at 7pm, before a bin was torched close to the sports hall at 9.20pm, a spokesman for Lancashire Police said.

“The former Bispham High School was until December 2015 utilised as a temporary facility for Aspire Academy, while that school was having a new school constructed on the old Collegiate High School site,” council papers at the time said.

“Since this date the school has remained unoccupied and is now falling into a state of disrepair. During this period, the council has had to manage and fund the premises and grounds, and ensure they are kept safe and secure.

“There have been a number of instances over recent months where trespassers have entered the building causing damage and disruption. As a result of this, the council has had to increase the number of security patrols which is resulting in increased costs.”

Until its demolition, more than £60,000 was spent securing and maintaining the site.