WINCHESTER’s sixth-form college has returned with plans to redevelop part of its site – five years after it faced backlash over proposals for an art centre.

Peter Symonds has secured £3.8million in grant funding from the Department of Education to construct a new two-storey classroom block.

The proposal sits on the site of a disused changing facility, which was previously associated with a swimming pool that was filled-in in the 1970s. It is in the same location as the college planned to build an art complex back in 2016.

At the time more than 150 residents took on the college and supported a letter asking the educator to rethink the proposal.

They feared the scheme is the first step towards wider expansion.

Now, the college has returned with a second and smaller application which will include 12 classrooms and associated facilities, including staff offices. If permission is granted the building is expected to be complete by the end of August 2022.

Hampshire Chronicle: The current building on the siteThe current building on the site

Principal Sara Russell said: “Providing the best possible learning experience for our students is our key priority and this funding will help us to significantly enhance our classroom environments.

“This new, state-of-the-art teaching block will incorporate sustainable building practices and offer flexible classroom accommodation allowing us to maximise the space available.

“The funding will enable us to respond to the changing needs of our students and developments in the curriculum we offer, enabling us to provide facilities with the latest technology and equipment to ensure we continue to deliver an outstanding teaching and learning experience for local young people.

“It is important to us that our students have the very best learning environment possible, and I am delighted that we have been awarded this funding towards the building of a much-needed flexible teaching block.”

Ms Russell said that the needs of the college have changed, with need for greater flexible classroom space, which is why plans for an art complex have been dropped.

Steve Brine MP said: “Peter Symonds College has done very well out of the capacity fund which is great news for Winchester and the ongoing quality we’re able to offer our young people in post-16 education. I look forward to seeing the new classroom block when it’s built.”

The scheme has brought concerns from residents, with a smaller number objecting to the plans than previous to the art complex. It follows a number of meetings with neighbours to discuss the plans and any concerns.

Adam Clarke-Williams, of Cranworth Road, said: “I wish to object in the strongest terms to the latest proposal by the college to construct a large and inappropriate block away from the main focus of the college and all too close to the homes of those of us who neighbour the southern boundary of its site. The downward slope of the land would mean that even a modest building would be unduly prominent when seen by residents - like us - in Cranworth Road.”

He added: “I have to rely on my gut instinct to say that this is - once more - the wrong proposal, in the wrong place, and, if allowed, would increase the strain and diminish the amenity of what has been, and in many ways remains, one of the suburbs which enhance the still wonderful city of Winchester.”

Dr Roger Norgate, also of Cranworth Road, claimed that the college is failing to “communicate a coherent development plan”., adding: “There must come a realistic point when a college situated within an intensive residential area becomes too intrusive and the college needs to look outside of that community for any further expansion.”

Martyn Ryland called on the college to produce a masterplan to ensure it is “aligned with climate change policies and the future of our children”.

The college said that it has supplied a masterplan to Winchester City Council planners, but the authority has decided not to upload the document.

Vice-principal David Cartwright has insisted that the scheme will not result in an increased number of students.

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