EXCLUSIVE: Cheltenham College want to turn office block into centre for fee-paying pupils
By Laura Enfield | 1st September 2023
Plans to turn the former Azets office block into a sixth form centre for Cheltenham College have been revealed.
The fee-paying school, which charges up to £15,500 a year, wants permission to transform the Bath Road building into a site for around 300 of its eldest pupils.
It said the proposals will boost learning, assist pupils in the transition from school to university and employment and help facilitate an ongoing programme of repair and refurbishment at its main campus.
The building, known as Pillar House, is located at 113-115 Bath Road across the road from the college's main site. It has sat empty since accountancy firm Azets merged its Cheltenham and Gloucester branches into a new office at Gloucester Business Park in Brockworth.
A planning statement submitted by Evans Jones on behalf of the college said: "The creation of a sixth form centre is an essential adjunct to the existing college campus."
It added: "Unlike commercial occupants who may only be temporary custodians of buildings, the college adopts a holistic and enduring perspective towards building maintenance.
"They take pride in being custodians not just for the present generation, but for the benefit of future generations."
The college, which was established in 1841, caters for around 1,200 children aged 3-18 years. It has applied to Cheltenham Borough Council for a change of use of the building from office to education.
If the plans get the nod work will be undertaken to create classrooms, offices, meeting spaces, study spaces, storage, social spaces, a library, careers office and further education advice centre.
The colleg's current sixth form has 303 pupils and the eight existing A-Level classrooms at its main campus are only 32 sqm on average which it said does not provide sufficient flexibility for classes.
It said the new centre will have 38sqm classrooms and will be a non-residential teaching, study and meeting place for pupils, with 12 full-time and two part-time employees.
Benefits will include assisting pupils in the transition from school to university and employment and the freeing up of eight classrooms within the main campus to help facilitate an ongoing programme of repair and refurbishment.
The Grade II listed Pillar House was constructed circa. 1810-40 as a residential property, with a contemporary office extension added to the rear in the 1980s.
It sits within the Cheltenham Central Conservation Area, specifically being within the Bath Road Character Area and is within the Principal Urban Area of Cheltenham.
The statement pointed out that although the change of use means loss of office space, the independent education sector plays a significant role in Cheltenham's economic landscape.
The college has 639 directly employed members of staff and also engages services from local professionals such as solicitors and consultants. It also brings families to the town who contribute to the local economy.
It has been estimated by Oxford Economics that the direct economic benefit attributable to Cheltenham College is £40 million per annum.
The college won Independent Boarding School of the Year for 2022-23 and is a founding member of the Cheltenham Education Partnership and has partnered with The Talent Tap to support students from less advantaged backgrounds.
It is proposed Pillar House will also be used during the school holidays to provide various educational programmes such as language classes for international students
The statement concluded: "Within the surrounding built-up urban area, the opportunities for the expansion of Cheltenham College are limited, thus when a building comes to market which is close by and considered fit for purpose, it is incumbent upon the custodians of the College to grasp property opportunities as they arise. "
The planning application 23/01451/FUL can be viewed at publicaccess.cheltenham.gov.uk
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