AN appeal hearing for plans to demolish a former grammar school in Swanage and build nearly 40 homes on the site will take place on Wednesday, June 20. 

The proposed development in Northbrook Road was rejected by Purbeck District Council in May 2017 over concerns about the size of Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) planned for the scheme.

The site is within five kilometres of the Studland and Godlingston Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which are also part of the Dorset Heathlands Special Protection Area and Ramsar site.

Natural England objected to the application on the grounds the proposed SANG fell “well short” of the required size.

The council upheld the organisation’s objections, saying it “could not be satisfied that the proposed development will not have significant adverse effects on internationally important heathland”.

However, it has “no objection in principle to a proposal to redevelop this site with 39 dwellings”.

But developers Welfare Dwellings Residential Care have argued Natural England has “not considered the merits of our proposal” and is “blinkered on achieving a fixed formula of x hectares of new SANG land per dwelling”.

In a statement supporting their appeal, Welfare Dwellings say they are proposing to “significantly improve” the facilities of the SANG to make it “particularly attractive to dog owners”.

They say they hired a leading dog behaviour expert to design the enhancements, which they argue would encourage existing local dog owners to use the land instead of heathland for “a 10% proportion of their dog walking”.

This would “significantly outweigh the impacts of new dogs from the development of 39 new dwellings”, they add.

The former grammar school building has not been used fully since the 1980s, when it was a outdoor education centre.

It closed as a grammar school in 1974.

However, the council is urging the planning inspectorate to dismiss the developer’s appeal.

In a statement, the council says the proposed development is “unacceptable and contrary to adopted and up-to-date policies.”

They add that the local planning authority “cannot be satisfied that the proposed SANG will satisfactorily mitigate adverse effects on European Sites.”