EYESORE SITE: St Peter’s in Gainford
EYESORE SITE: St Peter’s in Gainford

ANOTHER attempt is being made to develop the arson-hit former St Peter’s School site in Gainford – this time as a supported living and care centre for the elderly.
Parish councillors in Gainford were told that having been unable to agree a housing scheme for the area, the rival developers which own different parts of the land were now working together on new proposals.
Ruttle Plant owns what is left of the St Peter’s building and land to the front, while housebuilder Kebbell Homes has the area to the rear.
In a letter to the parish council, property developer Justin Stannard, on behalf of both companies, said: “We are now working together to bring forward an alternative use for both parcels of land.”
He said this would bring “extra care and supported living to residents wrapped in a high quality design apartment scheme”.
Mr Stannard added: “Residents would benefit from varying levels of care to meet their needs, meals available at the in-house restaurant or brought to their room, as well as other communal and social facilities including a regular bus service to Barnard Castle and Darlington.”
He said the idea of sheltered housing or a care complex on the site had been highlighted by parish councillors and residents at previous consultation events.
“Since then we have established that there is a high demand for this type of accommodation which is sadly under-supplied and believe that such a scheme would be a great benefit to the village in numerous ways as well as an appropriate and beautiful solution to the unsightly mess that is there currently.”

Durham County Council confirmed no approach had been made to planners by the developers about the latest scheme. Two years ago, Ruttle and Kebbell abandoned joint plans to turn the former school into apartments and build houses on the rest of the land, saying the scheme was unviable.
Since then, the building has been the scene of repeated arson attacks, anti-social behaviour and vandalism, leading to an application from Ruttle to demolish it after a surveyor warned the former school was in imminent danger of collapse.
Mr Stannard asked to meet the parish council to discuss the latest idea for the site.
However, members said Mr Stannard’s letter was lacking in detail.
Clerk Martin Clark said it was unclear from the letter exactly what was being proposed and chairman Cllr Andrew Wilkinson asked whether more information should be requested.
Cllr Simon Platten said: “We should say ‘we are not interested in hearing your sales pitch but instead talk to us about how you are going to engage with the village’.
“We should not get embroiled in a discussion with what he is proposing but we can facilitate a public meeting.” Cllr Maire Kennan said it was important to note that the two firms were working together again.
Questions were also raised in the meeting as to why no decision had been made on the demolition of the remaining St Peter’s building.
Stephen Reed, planning development manager at Durham County Council, said: “The former St Peter’s School is located in a prominent position in the Gainford conservation area and approach into the village.
“It is therefore important that careful consideration is given to the impacts of potential demolition on the setting, the appearance of the conservation area and the historic significance of the building.
“We also need to understand the landowners’ intentions for the remediation of the site should the building be demolished and the discussions relating to these matters are ongoing.
“No formal pre-application discussion has been held regarding the re-development of the site for sheltered housing/care provision.
“If a proposal is submitted, careful consideration will be given to the potential impacts, merits and viability of the development.”
Meanwhile, the parish council agreed to write back to Mr Stannard asking for more information and suggesting a public consultation event should be organised.