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Friday, 01 August 2014

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We won't demolish historic west Cumbrian clock tower

Councillors are expected to visit the site of a former school before deciding on its fate.

The old junior school at Distington is earmarked for demolition to make way for 15 homes.

But before members of Copeland’s planning panel make their minds up about the application, council officers are urging that they look at the site first-hand.

Cockermouth company John Swift Homes Ltd, which has applied to carry out the work, has agreed to exclude the old clock tower, which is part of the building, and refurbish it.

It will then be given back to the parish as part of the plans.

The clock was given to the village in 1902 to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII and it is maintained on behalf of the parish by the parish council. After the school closed in 2001 the building stood empty for a number of years and the clock was damaged.

During this time the parish council was able to gain access to the clock and carried out £10,000 of restoration work.

In 2004 the building, on Main Street, reopened as a learning disabilities centre and it was then used by the county council’s children’s services department and the NHS.

Two years ago the county council moved out and put the building up for auction.

The parish council owns the clock but not the tower, and had feared that whoever bought the building would demolish the clock tower.

A spokeswoman for John Swift Homes said: “Mr Swift always tries to work with parish councils and the community to accommodate their needs.

“We could see they were really passionate, committed and keen to save the clock tower.

“It is a really beautiful piece of architecture and a lovely focal point of the village.”

The company wants to demolish the old school and build 15 two-bedroom bungalows on the site.

Copeland councillors were meeting today to decide whether to visit the site before making the decision next month.

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