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Concerns over plans to build care home on site of Princess Diana’s former school

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Plans to demolish Princess Diana’s childhood school have been attacked by locals who fear it will destroy a town’s heritage.The former Silfield School in Gaywood, where the Norfolk-born royal began her formal education, is at risk of being bulldozed by developers Aspire LLP.Planning permission has been granted for six houses on the site but it has been reported that the company now intends to build a 70-bed care home instead.

The former Silfield School in the Gaywood area of King’s Lynn

With the threat of the century-old building being turned into rubble, King’s Lynn Civic Society is attempting to persuade Historic England to grant the Gayton Road property listed status to save it and fear if it goes ahead a piece of the town’s history will be lost.Alison Gifford, chairman of the group, said: “We are convinced of its importance as an example of an architectural style not represented elsewhere in the town in such an elegant form.“When these lovely suburban villas are demolished for multiple units of inferior housing part of our history is lost. The pleasant and well-designed becomes mundane. You see it everywhere. It’s symbolic of modern life.“We are all poorer for this downgrading of our buildings.”A royal educationDiana, Princess of Wales, who was born on the Sandringham Estate, attended Silfield Private School in 1968 and stayed there for two years.It was where she began her formal education, a time during which her parents divorced.She later left the school in 1970 to study at Riddlesworth Hall Preparatory School in South West Norfolk which last year went on sale for £3m.Silfield School remained in operation until 2004.‘Demolishing history’Aspire LLP has applied to West Norfolk Council to seek prior approval to demolish Silfield House.It follows a bid to build six houses on the plot, which was approved in 2018.But Aspire LLP, a specialist care home developer, have different plans for the site and hopes to build a 70-bed care home.A spokesman told the Daily Mail: “There is currently a shortfall of care home bed spaces for the elderly across the borough.‘The site is in a highly sustainable location in close proximity to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and provides an opportunity to meet a demonstrable need and deliver a much-needed community asset.”Ms Gifford believes the decision to demolish the building should be viewed amid a wider neglect of historic buildings in Lynn, such as the Carnegie Library – built in 1905 – which is to be abandoned for a new modern library in the city, and the Old Post Office which has been left to decay.A history of Silfield HouseSilfield House was built in 1921 by members of the Jermyn family, who once ran the main high street department store in Lynn.It was one of the earliest private properties to be built in the growing suburb of Gaywood in Gayton Road – one of the main routes into Lynn and what was once an exclusive area lined with several prominent buildings along the thoroughfare.It was designed by architects John Laurie Carnell and William Dymoke White, who also designed the Majestic Cinema in the centre of the town.

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