School's replacement windows spark planning row

Old Catton Junior School

Old Catton Junior School. - Credit: Dan Grimmer

A school which swapped its rotting Victorian timber windows for modern panes is waiting to find out if it will be allowed to keep the replacements.

Norfolk county councillors will this week decide whether Old Catton Church of England Junior School can retain the uPVC windows - and, if they say no, the school could be forced to remove them.

The 214-pupil school, in Church Street, replaced the windows on its main building, which dates back to 1874, in February.

Council documents state Broadland District Council had previously given verbal advice that planning permission was not needed and work could be done under permitted development.

Old Catton Junior School

Old Catton Junior School. - Credit: Dan Grimmer

But when the work was done, Broadland planning officers said permission should have been sought, as the replacements were uPVC and not wooden.

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So the school, which is within a conservation area, has had to seek retrospective permission.

Old Catton Parish Council has objected, as have three members of the public, so the matter will come before Norfolk County Council's planning regulatory committee.

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In the objection on behalf of the parish council, clerk Sarah Vincent stated: "The use of uPVC is inappropriate, the frames thicker, flatter and are not identical to the original frames, including inward opening rather than outward opening."

The parish council fears it could set a precedent for others to justify installing uPVC windows in the conservation area.

Old Catton sign

Parts of Old Catton are within a conservation area. - Credit: Dan Grimmer

Documents lodged by NPS Group, in support of the school's application, state the appearance of the replacement windows has "significant similarities" to what was there before, although the uPVC finish differs.

But they say the design is acceptable and will have a "limited impact and less than substantial harm to heritage value".

Officers at County Hall are recommending councillors give retrospective permission, particularly given the "great weight" planning authorities should give to educational development.

They say the previous windows had been painted shut, while the new ones open. They also say they have also cut the school's maintenance costs and energy costs.

Councillors will make a decision on Friday (September 24).

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