Published: 06:00, 02 June 2020
A former language school which sold for just under £3 million at auction could be converted into flats.
The old Chaucer College Kingsgate in Broadstairs, previously a language facility for Japanese students, has been empty since 2018, but could be restored to become 18 apartments, with terraces and gardens.
The building and grounds in Convent Road, next to North Foreland Golf Club, was one of three sites used by Chaucer College, the others being in Folkestone, which closed in 2011, and Canterbury, which is still in operation.
The Kingsgate facility shut due to a declining number of students, who preferred to study at its sister campus in Canterbury.
The Shumei Foundation, which set up Chaucer College, says the Thanet site had been running at a significant loss since 2015 before its eventual closure.
Despite attempts to sell the site, there was little interest from other educational establishments or developers, and prospective purchasers were not willing to pay more than £2 million without planning permission.
Substantial internal water damage was then caused last year when thieves stole lead from the roof, making it decline further in value.
But in February it was finally sold for just under £3 million by Connect UK Auctions and a request for a change of use has now been submitted to Thanet District Council by DHA Planning on behalf of Convent Road ACP Ltd.
The developers propose to convert the building, which is located in Thanet's 'green wedge' - the open area which maintains the distinction between the countryside and built-up locations - into contemporary flats with gardens.
In the application, DHA Planning says the development would bring a derelict building back into use and made a modest contribution to housing supply.
"The proposed modifications to footprint and built volume are very minor in nature, whilst the conversion of an existing building represents a sustainable re-use of land.
"The proposal also includes measures that will create or enhance wildlife habitats and biodiversity.
"Whilst the previous use of the site was educational, the development is not considered to result in the loss of a community facility as it did not previously serve the local community."
The Shumei Foundation says various initiatives were tried to salvage operations at Kingsgate, which was the founding campus of Chaucer College, bought in 1976 and followed by Canterbury in 1992 and Folkestone in 1993.
"This included expanding the business model to attract international summer school students from countries other than Japan, and the introduction of a reduced rate," the foundation said.
"It was nevertheless impossible to attract sufficient student capacity to make the college viable even at said reduced rates.
"Renting the site out to other language schools was also trialled, however commitments to the Shumei Foundation precluded making any long-term arrangements of this type.
"All initiatives proved unsuccessful as it was established that students preferred to go to Canterbury."
To see the full plans visit www.thanet.gov.uk and search reference F/TH/20/0591