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Plans approved to turn fire-hit school into affordable housing, nursery and community space

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Plans to turn an abandoned 19th century school into 50 new affordable homes have finally been approved after a long battle to save it from demolition.

Victoria Road School, which was built in 1878, survived direct hits from bombs in the Second World War.

It went on to serve children in the Torry area of Aberdeen until 2008, when it was closed and residents and the council have since locked horns over whether it should be bulldozed to make way for new homes.

More than 100 people stood together in the face of Barratt Homes’ plans to flatten the building in order to create 62 properties on the site.

One woman pledged she would “stand in front of the bulldozers” before allowing the building to be levelled.

Now it will be restored, with a nursery and community space joining homes on the site, in a move that will delight many locals who had feared their vision had foundered.

In 2018, the community rejoiced after councillors named the Torry Development Trust and Grampian Housing Association as “preferred bidders” for the site.

Together the group promised to convert the former school into affordable housing, while retaining as much as its history as possible.

But those plans stalled in May last year, when a devastating fire tore through the school.

Victoria Road School after the fire

It was feared the chance to revitalise the site might also have gone up in smoke – only weeks away from ownership officially being transferred – should the damaged building need to be torn down.

The Torry Development Trust’s David Fryer called it “a sad day – but only an interruption”.

Now, more than a year after the fire, the council has approved the Trust and Grampian Housing Association’s plans to create affordable housing there along with a nursery and community space.

Artist impressions of the new site

The homes will include fully accessible wheelchair units on the ground floor, while the nursery will be able to host up to 25 children.

Discussions are ongoing as to what else could be housed in the community space, whether it be a Men’s Shed or training kitchen.

Under the plans, the derelict school building, which lost its roof in the fire, will be restored.

An artist impression of the Victoria Road site

The council said in its decision notice: “The proposed development would constitute the sympathetic redevelopment of the former primary school site, including the retention and conversion of the historic granite former school buildings.”

Torry and Ferryhill councillor Audrey Nicoll welcomed the news that Victoria Road School will be preserved.

She said the campaign to save it from demolition highlighted the importance of community empowerment and celebrating local heritage.

Councillor Audrey Nicoll

“All of this hard work will ensure an important piece of Torry’s heritage is retained and transformed into affordable housing and great additional community space,” the councillor said.

“This is a fantastic example of the people of Torry working together to make their vision for its future a reality.

“I hope the work to take the project to the next step will be able to start as soon as possible, though that may be tricky given that we’ve just started the project of coming out of lockdown.”

She added: “In Torry, if you walk or cycle or even drive around the area you start to find pieces of heritage everywhere that you might not have known were there before.

“I think we all have a responsibility to retain that heritage where possible, and if there are opportunities to do so – and at the same time keep that important piece of heritage relevant to life today, as is the case with this housing development – then that’s even more ideal.”

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