A VICTORIAN school which has been empty for years will be turned into flats.
Swindon Borough Council will sell the site and building in Clays Close in Upper Stratton to its own housing development company for £75,000.
The idea is the company will raise finance to build 12 houses on the site and turn the old school buildings– last used as Stratton Education Centre – into seven flats.
They will be sold on the open market and once the financing has been repaid, theb orough council will pocket the profits.
Cabinet member for finance Russell Holland told his Conservative colleagues the sale would bring less money to the council than it might do, but that was to preserve the building.
He said on the open market the site could reach between £325,000 and £375,000 more, and normally it is the council’s policy to sell land even to its housing company at market rate.
But he added: “The Victorian building is of local significance.
“We want to preserve the building as an asset to the community – we don’t have that many such buildings in Swindon, and it’s important to keep it.
“Normally we would want to maximise the return to the council – but this is necessary to keep the building.”
Coun Holland told the cabinet members it would be possible to make more money by selling the site and building to a commercial developer but that would carry with it a real risk of the redbrick building being demolished.
He said: “As the planning authority we could require the building’s retention, but it is always possible that if the site is sold a purchaser would seek to challenge the planning authority’s approach by way of appealing a refusal of an application to demolish the building.
“If an appeal is successful, demolition of the building could take place. Reliance on planning powers does not guarantee the retention of the building.
“There is no way of ensuring that the council as the current owner of the site can ensure through a sale on the open market that the building can be protected from demolition. The disposal to the housing company will ensure its retention.”
The sale of the land to the housing company was agreed unanimously.
Swindon Housing Company is a private company but wholly owned by the council. It was set up to build small developments, sometimes of just one or two houses, as a fund raiser for the local authority.
A formal planning application will still have to be submitted and agreed by the planning committee.