PLANS to build five new homes on a private school’s land which would provide a ‘financial lifeline’ to the school have been turned down as the proposals would ‘harm’ the character of the area.

Members of the development control committee for the Lake District National Park Authority refused an application from Windermere School for outline planning permission to build five local occupancy homes on its Elleray Campus off Ambleside Road.

If the school was granted outline planning permission, they intended to sell the land to a developer.

A report written by planning officers for the committee states: “I consider that the development would result in a permanent loss of open space that is important to the landscape and visual amenity of this part of the National Park, and to heritage considerations.

“The development would harm rather than preserve or enhance the character of the Windermere Conservation Area and the English Lake District World Heritage Site, in particular the attributes of Outstanding Universal Value relating to villas and formal landscapes and the extraordinary beauty and harmony.”

Windermere School is a private school catering for pupils from the age of three to 18. The school is spread across two sites with the Elleray campus housing the junior school in a villa set in ‘extensive’ grounds.

Speaking at the committee meeting, Windermere School bursar Richard Hennah said: “Public benefits extend beyond the provision of five local occupancy properties, it also provides a financial lifeline to a school that is unique in its offer to the Lake District National Park.

“We still have a Covid business interruption loan that we need to repay in May, and this is the way we have intended to clear the debt and so the public benefits also need to consider the existing benefit of sustaining the school."

Mr Hennah also told the committee the applicants carried out their own heritage survey with a heritage expert and stated the proposals would have only ‘slight’ heritage impacts to Windermere Conservation Area and a ‘neutral to slight impact’ on the Elleray Villa with other heritage impacts being neutral.

He added that the view of the expert should take ‘precedence’ given their specialist knowledge and the harm was not ‘significant’.

The headteacher of Windermere school, Frank Thompson said: “Windemere school is very unique in it’s educational offer and as the only independent school in the area is a vital part of our community. Baked into our curriculum is social action which is seen in the local community by visiting elderly residents at Thornton House Care Home, and our work in improving the environment in and around the town."

“We’re a cultural exporter, our international borders brings spending power to the town, particularly in the off-season months. They take home with them British values and as we watch the rise of China, it’s comforting to know many Chinese leaders of the future will have had positive experiences of British education, living in an international community at Windermere School.

“Our presence in Windermere provides income to the local economy, jobs for local people, accommodation for 10 families in an area short of housing. It provides schooling for over 220 local children at no cost to the state as well as supplying lunches to two local primary schools", he added.

According to planning documents the school took out a Covid Business Interruption Loan of £2 million pounds, of which £1.55 million has been paid back, due in part to the successful sale of the previous planning consent, thus leaving an outstanding balance of £450,000 that is increasing in costs.

Chairman of the development control committee Mark Kidd, said on the proposals: “This is a one-off benefit and I know it’s a material benefit to the school but once this is done, it’s done and this important space which is deliberately labelled as conservation area will be lost forever.”

Members of the development control committee refused the planning application on February 7.