A CHURCH’s plan to redevelop a derelict Grade II listed Bradford school building is tipped to be refused by planning chiefs.

In March, the Life Church, based in Wapping Road, submitted plans to demolish the crumbling buildings that make up the former Wapping Road School and replace it with a two-storey educational building with a neighbouring 90-bed three-storey student accommodation building.

Although some features of the building would be retained, much of the historic school building would be totally replaced.

Wapping Road School opened in 1877 and was the first school in the country to have its own swimming pool. It later played a central role in Margaret and Rachel McMillan’s efforts to improve conditions of children in the country’s schools.

It shut in 2000 and in recent years the historic building has suffered arson attacks and vandalism, leaving it a shell of its former splendour.

Heritage guardians Historic England and the Victorian Society hit out at the plans, raising concerns that a key part of education history could be lost.

Around 2,000 people worship at Life Church each week, and thousands more come from around the country to attend conferences. The centre is also home to Life Church College, which is “designed to equip men and women for leadership in every sphere of life and for Christian ministry”.

The church says that students attend the college from all over the world. But they say more space is needed to help the college grow, including on-site accommodation for visiting students.

The plans are due to be discussed by councillors next Thursday, but a report released ahead of the meeting says: "It is concluded that insufficient weight has been given by the applicants to the heritage assets including no clear and convincing justification for the total loss of the listed buildings, insufficient demonstrable substantial public benefits that would outweigh the loss of this listed building and also insufficient information to demonstrate that a viable use of the heritage asset cannot be found.

"It is concluded that the loss of the listed buildings does not outweigh the benefits derived from this scheme and there is insufficient detail of the design, scale and materials of any replacement."

The report outlines that a ward councillor for the area has requested the application be considered, saying: “It will bring great benefit to the area and Bradford and really needs to happen.”

Other comments in support include: "Redevelopment of the derelict school would have a very positive impact on the area. The derelict building and the surrounding area has long been a place for antisocial behaviour and illegal activities. A new educational centre can only be a positive thing for the local community and would improve the quality of life for residents and people who work on Wapping Road."

Another comment says: "Whilst I appreciate the building's historical significance, at the moment it has no purpose at all other than to be a danger to society and an eyesore."

Others highlight the potential for increased footfall, a reduction in crime and regeneration of the area.

Adding to objections from Historic England, the Victorian Society and West Yorkshire Archaeology, a Bradford Council conservation officer says: "It has not been adequately demonstrated that the nature of the heritage asset prevents all reasonable uses of the site. "The creative re-use or adaptation of the buildings has not been exhaustively explored."

The objection adds: "A clear and convincing case has not been made that the approach sought is the only achievable outcome, or that retention of the buildings has been thoroughly evaluated, with all possible options and permutations of development considered and discounted before demolition can be concluded as justified."

The report highlights other objections. One says: "Listed buildings are listed and protected as such for a reason. Bradford is all too quick to permit the demolition of heritage assets."

While another adds that Bradford heritage is "under threat".

The Life Church previously said it was working closely with Bradford Council's planning team, adding: “The proposed redevelopment of the former Wapping Road School will be a great asset to our community, as a place of continued assistance and support, as we continue to seek in helping as many people as we can.”

In the planning application, the church said: “We fervently believe that both in practice and in spirit, through each element of these carefully considered developments, the legacy established in the area by the McMillan sisters and the Wapping Road School will continue to be immortalised through the on-going work of LIFE Church.”