Controversial plans to build over 100 retirement flats on the site of a former Wiltshire college have been approved on appeal.

In February 2023, Wiltshire Council rejected plans to build 113 apartments for over 60s at the former Wiltshire College site, on Cocklebury Road in Chippenham.

The current building was first constructed in 1898 and has been used as both a secondary school and technical college since then.

Wiltshire Council ruled that proposals to demolish the historic building and replace it with retirement apartments, put forward by McCarthy & Stone Retirement Lifestyles Ltd & Anchor Hanover Group, would damage the character of the area.

But this decision has now been overturned on appeal and planning permission for the scheme has been granted.

During the appeal, Chippenham Town Council pointed out the significant public objection to the scheme, with over 200 letters of objection received.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: The former college siteThe former college site (Image: Google Maps)They, along with Wiltshire Council, argued that allowing the redevelopment of the site to go ahead would cause “harm” to the character of the area.

A Wiltshire Council spokesperson said: “On this highly prominent site… the proposed development is not considered to be of a high-quality design.

“The proposals are considered to harm the character and local identity of the Conservation Area and do not protect, conserve or enhance the historic environment.”

McCarthy & Stone and Anchor Hanover Group argued the public benefits of the scheme would outweigh the loss of the historical site.

In their statement of case, they said: “The Appeal scheme represents an opportunity to secure beneficial development… positively enhancing the environment and amenities of the locality, whilst providing a high standard of specialised housing for local older people.”

As well as 113 self-contained units for elderly tenants, the development intends to build a wellness salon, communal lounge and bistro.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald: Plans for retirement flats in ChippenhamPlans for retirement flats in Chippenham (Image: Planning application)Planning inspector Gareth Thomas, who ruled in favour of the developers, found the plans to be “well-designed” and claimed the benefits to Chippenham would be “substantial” and align with hopes for the regeneration of the area.

In his decision, he added: “The appeal scheme would bring forward needed affordable and market housing at a time when the council cannot demonstrate a five-year housing land supply.

“In addition, the development would bring about economic benefits both short and longer term.”

While Mr Thomas admitted the current building had a “degree of significance as a heritage asset”, he was confident the redevelopment of the site would “reinforce local identity” and protect the heritage of the area.