There seems to be a passion for demolishing what’s left (and unlisted) of Bristol’s 19th century buildings at present (posts passim).

The latest potential victim is the Victorian era school in Avonvale Road in St George.

image of Avonvale School

Avonvale School. Picture credit: Mariateresa Bucciante

Bristol City Council, those champions of preserving the city’s heritage of past centuries (as long as it fits in with their particular view of what constitutes heritage. Ed.), together with Redfield Educate Together (who’ll be running the school to be opened on the site) and the builders, PPP ‘experts’ Skanska, have submitted a planning application proposing the demolition of the old Victorian school buildings and the building of a box-like, bland, modern replacement.

The existing building has apparently been declared unsuitable by the city council’s Children and Young People’s Service, the trendy, modern moniker for what used to be the Local Education Authority.

A petition has been organised to try and avert its demolition and the information below comes from it.

The Victorian school currently occupying the site was designed in 1898 by the acclaimed local architect, Herbert J Jones, and it is a candidate for local listing. It is a local landmark in St. George, an area with a strong character and the building, in excellent condition, was used by the council until recently (isn’t it curious how the same building can be used and then regarded as unsuitable by the same body? Ed.).

The petitioners believe, as recommended by English Heritage advice on reusing Victorian schools, that the building should be saved and adapted for the new school. If not large enough, other school buildings are available, such as the other school in Avonvale Road in Barton Hill.

The advice from English Heritage is strong: “Where re-use for educational purposes has been ruled out, every effort should be made to find a new use. The aim should be to obtain the best return for the taxpayer consistent with government policies for protecting the historic environment.”

The replacement defeats Bristol City Council’s draft policy DM26 which states that, “Development should contribute positively to an area’s character and identity, creating or reinforcing local distinctiveness.”

The petition, which is addressed to Bristol City Council, concludes as follows:

We acknowledge the urgent and strong need for a new school in the area and we very much support the reuse of this building and the search for more suitable sites, and for a school which is truly inspiring for the future generations of Bristolians.

We believe you should reconsider your plan, looking for the advice of English Heritage’s experts independent from the proposal of a single developer.

Sign the petition.