Fight on to save historic school

Heritage: Former pupils of Percy Jackson Grammar School in Woodlands display their banner outside the building's Art Deco entrance.
Heritage: Former pupils of Percy Jackson Grammar School in Woodlands display their banner outside the building's Art Deco entrance.
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OLD pupils of a Doncaster grammar school are banding together across the globe to fight plans to demolish part of their heritage.

Former pupils fear the 1930s Art Deco frontage of the original Percy Jackson Grammar School in Woodlands will be pulled down as part of the redevelopment of its successor school, Outwood Academy.

An online petition protesting about the planning applictaion has already attracted more than 200 signatures from Britain and former pupils living in other parts of the world, including the United States, Canada and Australia.

The proposed £16 million rebuild programme for the academy envisages demolishing all present school buildings on the campus, including the original premises.

Former PJGS pupils claim that the original building has not only architectural style and character but that it has many years of useful life left in it and the budget for demolition should instead be put towards restoration and refurbishment of the premises.

Ken Cooke, an old boy who has written a book about the school’s history, said: “We do not object in principle to a new building - we just believe the original should be conserved and put to good use.

“It has character and it has architectural merit as one of the few Art Deco buildings in the Doncaster area. Also, it is part of the Woodlands village scene and has been for over 70 years.”

Some of the protesters, who attended a reunion this month, also visited the school to display their banner and received support from some current pupils.

Mr Cooke has urged all former pupils, members of the local community and anyone with an interest in conserving a heritage site, to sign their online petition, which is addressed to Doncaster Council and the Outwood Academy at http://www.petitiononline.com/PJ2011/

Residents of Windmill Balk Lane have also expressed concerns about the new school plans because of traffic issues at the proposed entrance.

The Mayor of Doncaster, Peter Davies, has expressed sympathy for the views of former pupils “who want to protect the architecture of the the school they went to”.

“The council is working closely with the Outwood Grange Academies Trust and has been asked to manage the project. I am strongly in favour of preserving our architectural heritage,” he said.

“Unfortunately it is not always possible to do this.”

Since the demolition of the Odeon Cinema in Hall Gate last year, the only other significant Art Deco building in Doncaster is the Co-operative Emporium in St Sepulchre Gate, which is a listed building but will become vacant this week when the TJ Hughes department store closes.