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Marlborough College’s mystery medieval wall the vital key in plans for a new students’ crossing

Is it partly a listed medieval wall?  Can it be demolished to allow the narrow pavement to be widened?  And will that allow for a Puffin crossing to be installed for the safety of Marlborough College’s students?

These are the crucial questions that are now to be considered by a planning inspector at a planning inquiry but may well end up for Secretary of State Eric Pickles to decide the outcome.

But it nevertheless means another clash between the College and Marlborough town council – nine months after plans for a Puffin crossing in Bridewell Street for female students in its new Ivy House hostel were turned down.

The College has appealed against the refusal of Wiltshire Council’s eastern planning committee to allow alterations to be made in the College’s existing boundary wall to enable a crossing to be installed on a wider pavement.

That’s what the town council’s Planning Committee were told last night (Monday) where it was revealed June 12 declined for representations to the planning inspectorate.

It will undoubtedly include one from former mayor Nick Fogg, one of Marlborough’s two Wiltshire councillors, and a town councillor too.

“I thought the College had just dropped the whole because nothing happened for quite a while,” Councillor Fogg told Marlborough News Online.  “Now the College has put in this appeal and we don’t now yet whether a public inquiry will be held in Marlborough or, as sometimes happens, by the planning inspector from the information he has received.

“Basically, we can’t do anything about the crossing itself because that’s Wiltshire’s highways and they are a law until themselves.  But in order to create the crossing they have to make alterations to the College’s boundary wall.

“I talked to Wiltshire Heritage Museum yesterday and they are going to put in a submission.  They were crucial to the decision last time because they have a committee of experts on these things.”

It appears that the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, founded in 1853, maintain that when the College’s present boundary wall was erected the distinguished Victorian architect Edward Blore did so in the belief that it was originally medieval.

And an expert Councillor Fogg has called in has pointed out that part of the wall is pre 1730, the date when the standard size of bricks was altered, further evidence as to why it ought not to be demolished.

“That will be the crux factor of whether the wall is ancient or not,” added Councillor Fogg. “I am going to write to the inspector asking for expert witnesses to be brought in to consider the lineage of the wall.

“If were proved to be a partly medieval wall, then I believe the decision will have to go to Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State, for him to make the decision.

“But whether the planning inspector himself represents the Secretary of State is another consideration in this matter.  It gets more and more complex, absolutely so.

“In the view of experts it is a medieval wall.  That makes it more difficult to alter.  Ultimately though, you can knock anything down once you get the right ticks in the box.”

Meanwhile, the town council has recommended approval of plans by the college to improve some of its male student accommodation and make internal alterations to its museum block, once the original Bridewell prison.

Councillor Alexander Kirk Wilson, while abstaining from voting on these items, claimed that public schools like Marlborough College were intent in raising their accommodation standards so that they could maintain extraordinarily high fees that are well above inflation and a disservice to society.

“Alexander made a very good point that these schools have destroyed their heritage in order to keep up with what is required by the families who use them,” said Councillor Fogg.

The town council has in the past claimed that there are already two Pelican crossings for the benefit of College students on the Bath road and that a Puffin crossing would snarl up traffic  at the Bridewell roundabout.

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