Group upset as former Even Swindon school building is pulled down
THE DEMOLITION of a derelict primary school began yesterday to the frustration of those who had vowed to save the Victorian building from the bulldozers.
Cranes started knocking down the old Even Swindon School, which had been left vacant since being gutted in a major fire in February.
Despite the council announcing in August that it would pull it down to make way for housing, the demolition came as a huge disappointment to campaigners who had hoped the local authority might eventually decide to preserve the landmark and incorporate it in any future development.
Martha Parry, chairman of Swindon Civic Voice, deplored the loss of the historical building.
“It is a real shame,” she said. “It shouldn’t have happened. They said it was derelict but I can’t believe it was that bad. It’s part of the town’s heritage and it’s quite a landmark. It’s part of the character of Rodbourne and part of the original railway town.
“The council are launching a new heritage strategy but they are tearing this building down. We never really understood why it couldn’t be integrated in a new housing development. That’s what they have done with other schools like Gilbert’s Hill in Dixon Street.”
Even Swindon Primary School moved around the corner to Pasture Close in 2007.
The site, in Hughes Street, was taken over by the Primary Care Trust but had been left empty after it closed down its operations there a year ago.
The building was gutted by a fire on February 16 this year, which entirely destroyed one of the rooms and part of the roof.
Although saddened to see it ripped apart, Coun James Robbins (Lab, Mannington and Western) said residents had gradually accepted the impending demolition after seeing the abandoned school left to fall into a state of disrepair over the last few months.
“People are unhappy to see it go but some felt that that it had not been used for a few years and were unhappy it had become a haunt for anti-social behaviour. People are keen to see something there that’s going to be useful for the area and in keeping with it. There is a need for housing in Swindon.”
For some parents whose children now attend the Even Swindon school and walk past the boarded-up building every day, ridding Rodbourne of what had become an eyesore was warmly welcomed.
Maria Disa, of Rodbourne, whose daughter attends the school, said: “It’s a good thing that it’s being demolished. There was no need to keep it. There is a new school now and it has been empty for a while.”
A Swindon Council spokesman said: “The school building was deemed to be unsafe following the fire last February and had become a hive of anti-social behaviour with numerous break-ins.
“We had no choice but to demolish the building and we expect the work to be completed in the next few weeks. Following a public consultation, it was decided that the site should be used for housing and plans will be drawn up in the new year.”