PLANS to demolish a college building in Newton and build ten homes have been given the go-ahead after a government planning inspector overturned St Helens Council’s original rejection on appeal.

In December last year, following considerable opposition to the plans from the community, councillors on St Helens’ planning committee unanimously rejected proposals to replace the Newton-le-Willows college campus with two and three bedroom homes.

Speaking at the time, Cllr Seve Gomez-Aspron said “the demolition of the college would be a severe hit to the town and a reduction of local heritage”.

However, following an appeal by developers Morris Homes Ltd to the Planning Inspectorate, the ruling has been reversed and permission has been granted for the college building to be flattened and the homes built.

In its judgement, the Inspectorate had noted the strong support for the retention of the building, which dates back to 1911, and that in 2008 the building was assessed by English Heritage but was not considered appropriate for listing.

And, despite the creation of the ‘St Helens List of Locally Important Buildings Supplementary Planning Document’ in 2011 to set out criteria for buildings which may be suitable for listing, the inspector noted that a local list had not been produced for the borough.

An assessment of the building’s heritage significance concluded “that the building lacks specific local interest and does not meet the criteria for local listing and the Council have not produced any evidence to the contrary to indicate that it meets any of their adopted criteria”.

A statement from St Helens Council in response to the decision said: “The decision of the government planning inspector to overturn the original decision of the Council is extremely regrettable as they have not listened to local views and those of the council.

“As much as the council, as well as local residents wanted to retain the building it is clear that the government’s planning inspector did not consider that this was feasible.”