By Elliot Furniss
Friday, December 28, 2012
PLANS to breathe new life into a former Suffolk girls’ school that went into financial meltdown and closed last year, have been tabled.
Amberfield School was an all-girl independent school with former pupils including the likes of artist Maggi Hambling and Madeleine Gurdon, Baroness Lloyd Webber.
The school, based in a Victorian workhouse with added modern buildings, closed suddenly in October 2011 after the trust that ran the site ran up debts totalling more than £1.8million.
Now the main building, situated in the 16-acre wooded grounds, is set to be transformed into a dozen flats and houses with a further 10 new homes to be built around the grounds.
Patrick Hockley, of Hockley & Goodwin Estate and Land Agents, which acquired the site for the new developers, said it was a very exciting proposal. He said: “We have got a lot of modern buildings here that are not in keeping with the existing old workhouse and our plan is to demolish the modern parts and rebuild it as 10 new units on the site. We’ll keep the same footprint, within reason, and then with the existing buildings, convert them into 12 units – some flats and bungalows.
“We will be keeping all of the trees as they are part of the site.”
He said there was “huge shock” when the school closed suddenly but that there had been “incredible” interest in the property once it was placed on the market.
The plans, which are subject to planning permission, would see the retail value of the properties total about £14m and it is hoped that the sale of the site to developers Michael Howard homes, based in Dedham, and Knight Developments will realise some sort of return for the many left out of pocket by the school’s collapse.
The trust’s financial shortfall included a £1.3m debt to Barclays Bank, £200,000 outstanding to staff and £360,000 owed to other creditors. Nearly £38,000 was owed to HM Revenue & Customs, there was an insurance bill of £25,000, a council tax debt of £10,000 to Suffolk Coastal District Council and the trust owed £10,401 in teachers’ pensions.
The school employed 53 people at the time of the closure and former staff members made preferential creditors – those most likely to see any return from the sale of the property after any secured creditors, which includes the bank.
As well as dozens of parents being owed tens of thousands of pounds in school fees, the trust also owed money to a wide range of local companies and individuals for services carried out and unpaid bills. The school also owed Suffolk County Council nearly £1,800 and £21,000 to Ipswich department store Coes for old uniform stock.