New school to take over Walsall site left derelict after factory blaze

A new school will transform a derelict Walsall town centre site that once housed an historic leather factory before it was destroyed in an arson attack.

An artist's impression of what the new Ladder School building on the former Shannons Mill site might look like. Photo: Race Cottam Associates.
An artist's impression of what the new Ladder School building on the former Shannons Mill site might look like. Photo: Race Cottam Associates.

Members of Walsall Council’s planning committee gave the thumbs up for The Ladder School to create its new facility on land which used to be home to Shannons Mill, in George Street, in the town centre.

A separate plan to extend the existing Walsall Studio School – which sits on the same site – by building a new two-storey teaching building was also agreed at the meeting on Thursday.

Both schools belong to the Mercian Trust and representatives said it would enhance the education of the pupils and regenerate a key gateway into the town centre.

The fire which destroyed Shannons Mills in George Street, Walsall. Photo Aaron Manning/West Midlands Fire Service.

The Grade II listed Shannons Mill was destroyed in a blaze back in August 2007, caused by a suspected arson attack.

The site has been fenced off and remained mostly empty since but the hoardings have become a target for graffiti vandals.

As well as the new Ladder School building, a multi-use games area will be built on site and 38 car parking spaces created.

The free school caters for children aged 13 and 18 with a range of needs and who are at risk of exclusion from mainstream education due to behavioural problems.

It is currently based in Millennium House and caters for 40 pupils but the numbers will eventually increase to 112.

The development for Walsall Studio School, which caters for 14-19-year-olds, will provide extra facilities such as science labs and sixth-form study space as well as a connecting bridge from the new block to the existing facility in the Goldmine Centre.

According to the project management plan, work is anticipated to start in November this year and be completed in February 2022.

Regenerate

Michelle Davies, representing the trust, said: “Both schemes represent a substantial investment by the Department for Education into the town and the district.

“They will provide much-needed educational facilities for the area as a whole.

“The applications will regenerate a key gateway site on the edge of the town centre which has lain vacant for well over a decade.

“It’s also a highly sustainable location for educational uses with good public transport links.”

Ward councillor and Labour group leader Aftab Nawaz said: “I’m very happy that we’re having something happen to this site.

“I’m pretty fed up of seeing all the graffiti on the boards as people go to Asda and I’m really pleased it is happening.”

Planning committee member Angela Underhill said her grandson attended The Ladder School for two years and it transformed him.

She said: “It is an area that has been neglected for some time and is in a dreadful state.

“I know the work the school does. It deals with a lot of young people who have problems in other schools and have gone there and they are coming out totally different children. It’s an exciting new future for the town and that area.

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