Former school site of 1.89 hectares goes on the market

The former St James Middle School site that has stood empty for years is now on the market

The former St James Middle School site that has stood empty for years is now on the market - Credit: Savills

The redevelopment of a former middle school site should be sympathetic to its "very important" setting, community leaders have said.

The site of St James CEVA Middle School, which closed in 2016 as part of the countywide school reorganisation, is close to the ruins of the Abbey of Saint Edmund in the Abbey Gardens.

St James Middle School in Bury.

The former St James Middle School in Bury St Edmunds. Picture taken in 2016 - Credit: Archant

Savills is marketing the 1.89-hectare site as a "freehold residential development opportunity", with bids to be submitted by March 17.

The agents have also said it could be suitable for retirement or healthcare uses, all subject to the necessary planning consent.

Martyn Taylor, chairman of the Bury Society

Martyn Taylor, chairman of the Bury Society - Credit: Archant

Martyn Taylor, chairman of the Bury Society, said the society was generally supportive of redeveloping it for residential use, with a preference for some of the existing buildings to be retained and converted into new homes.

He added: "There should be a height restriction on any new-build works to minimise impact on the Abbey Gardens.

"The landscape setting of the Abbey Gardens and the rest of the Abbey of St Edmund ruins looking east and with the backdrop of the St James site is very important. “

Mayor of Bury St Edmunds Peter Thompson

Mayor of Bury St Edmunds Peter Thompson - Credit: Charlotte Bond

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Town Mayor Peter Thompson, who is also county councillor for the area, said it had to be developed sympathetically within its important setting, and is keen there is some aspect of community use at the site.

"We look forward to seeing what happens," he said.

A site plan. The hatched area isn't included in the sale

A site plan. The hatched area isn't included in the sale - Credit: Savills

Councillor Cliff Waterman, who represents the area on the district council, added: "It would be nice if some part could be used for community purposes.

"It's good it's being developed; we don't want crumbling buildings there."

The site includes classrooms, a residential block, tennis/netball courts and lots of surrounding amenity space

The site includes classrooms, a residential block, tennis/netball courts and lots of surrounding amenity space - Credit: Savills

The site is owned by the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich and the land is held by an educational trust, like other Church of England schools.

The option of having a voluntary aided primary school there had been explored in the past, but a spokesman for the Diocese said Suffolk County Council had confirmed it was not needed.

"Upon ceasing to be a school, the trustees may sell the site and must apply the proceeds towards another school(s) in the Diocese," the spokesman said. "Trustees are required under charity law to ensure that they achieve the best terms for any disposal and will re-invest in education."

"The Diocese has engaged Savills to commence the marketing process for the site. It is envisaged the property will be sold in due course, subject to planning consent being obtained by the purchaser.”

Another view of the St James site

Another view of the St James site - Credit: Savills

Mr Waterman said he would be keen for the money to be invested in education locally.

Thomas Higgins, from the development team at Savills Chelmsford, said: “As well as the central hub and classrooms there is also a residential block, together with two hard-standing tennis/netball courts and lots of surrounding amenity space.

"It is an exciting opportunity for someone to breathe new life into what is an important site in the centre of town and - subject to the necessary planning consents - it could be suitable for a range of uses including residential, retirement or healthcare.”

The sale is by informal tender with bids to be submitted by 12 noon on March 17.

See here for the brochure. 

Suffolk County Council was contacted for comment.