A NEW school to serve 1,900 pupils aged three-19 in Abergavenny has been given the go ahead by planning councillors, despite concerns that the design is “unimaginative and uninspiring”.

The all-through school on the current site of King Henry VIII School, will include flying-start, nursery, lower school, upper school and sixth form provision.

Specialist provision for children with complex neuro-developmental and learning needs will also be included, with 71 places provided.

The new development, previously estimated to cost £50m, will replace King Henry VIII - one of Wales’ oldest schools dating back to 1542 – and Deri View Primary, and is intended to be ready in time for September 2024.

Under the plans, the existing buildings will be demolished to make way for two new buildings – the three-storey lower school for pupils up to year four, and the three-storey upper school for pupils from years five-13.

The school will come with modern facilities, including better sports provision with 3G pitches.

Abergavenny Town Council told the planning committee it was “unimpressed with the overall design of the school, describing it as unimaginative and uninspiring as a centre of learning for the 21st century”.

And Abergavenny and District Civic Society described the proposed new buildings as ‘functional’, but said ‘disappointingly’ the designs have “no special architectural quality”.

But Philip Thomas, from Monmouthshire Council’s planning team, told last week’s planning committee meeting the new development will “substantially improve” the design quality of the buildings on the site.

Although “necessarily functional”, the designs will be “a vast improvement” on the current appearance of the school, he said.

Abergavenny councillor Maureen Powell (Pen Y Fal, Welsh Con) said the school will be “a wonderful addition” to the town.

“I think it’s been long-coming,” she said. “The school building itself has been in dire states and we really do need a new school.”

Patrick Hannay, chairman of Abergavenny Transition Town, said that further improvements could be made to ‘active travel’ plans, such as walking and cycling routes to the school.

Craig O’Connor, head of planning at Monmouthshire Council, said the application had attempted to “push the active travel agenda”, and to change the way people travel to school.

Pete Sulley, of Asbri Planning, on behalf of the application, said the new school would enhance the area and provide “the best education for young people in Abergavenny for many years to come”.

The development is part of Monmouthshire Council’s 21st century schools programme, with 65 per cent of the cost funded by Welsh Government and 35 per cent by the local authority.

New school buildings at Monmouth and Caldicot comprehensives have already been completed and opened.

Cllr Jayne McKenna (Mitchel Troy/Trellech United, Welsh Con) welcomed the plans, saying the new school is “desperately now needed”, with the existing facilities “no longer fit for purpose”.

All 15 councillors on the planning committee voted in favour of the plans.