An appeal has been sounded for Brooksby Melton College to abandon its plans to replace a redundant education building with homes and to make the property available for the community instead.
An application has been submitted to Melton Council to create 22 new apartments by redeveloping the town’s King Street site, which Melton Town Estate transferred to the county council for a peppercorn rent in 1936 to help educate Melton’s young people.
The college has not used the building for more than two years since it housed a dance academy and it now wants to transform it into 14 two-bed and eight one-bed affordable homes.
But Town Estate feoffee John Southerington pointed out that his organisation, which is an historic charity set up to support the people of Melton, still owned the freehold of the site and held the deeds to it.
He said: “If this building is surplus to requirements in terms of being used for education the lease should be surrendered and the property should be handed back to the Town Estate.
“We handed over the lease to the then county council in 1936 at a nominal annual rent of five shillings, which is 25p in today’s money, so that it could be used to educate the young people of Melton.
“Why should another organisation maximise millions of pounds from a development at the expense of a charity which is there for the good of Melton?”
The building, which occupies a prominent location on the junction of King Street and Chapel Street, was used as Melton’s town hall early in the 20th century until Egerton Lodge took over in 1929.
The Town Estate handed over the property to the county council to house courses for the technical college and it has since been used by the former further education college and latterly Brooksby Melton College.
Mr Southerington added: “There is a room for the town warden set aside in the building and the Town Estate still has keys to use it.
“There is a doubt over whether the college has the right to put the site up for development when we are technically still the leaseholder and own the freehold.
“The Town Estate ploughs back any profits we make into the town and surrounding area, like we did in the 1970s to provide a theatre for Melton, for example.”
A spokesperson for Brooksby Melton College said it did not feel it was appropriate to comment about the issues surrounding the lease and freehold of the site or the scheme itself before the council’s planning committee had considered the application.
In the college’s planning application, a report states that the existing building is not suitable for conversion so a new development would be created ‘to inject new life into the site’.
It continues: “This would make a more prominent contribution to the street scene and would provide homes for local people, who would benefit from the proximity of the town centre amenities and contribute to the town centre economy.”