A HISTORIC former chapel attached to a village primary school in Ribble Valley is set to be demolished to make way for a modern new entrance and extra teaching space.

Work is already under way on a separate extension to Barrow Primary School on Whalley Road in order to accommodate a planned increase in pupil numbers.

Lancashire County Council has now given the go-ahead for further redevelopment which will see the removal of the chapel and a hall at the United Reform Church-founded school, which dates back to the late 19th century.

The changes will see the creation of a single-storey reception area – which will enable the segregation of visitors from the main school area – and two new classrooms. It will also eliminate any changes in level within the school.

However, the demolition has been strongly criticised by Barrow Parish Council which blasted the decision not to maintain the chapel as part of the redesign – and called for the protection of “one of the few older buildings left” in the village.

“Although not listed, the chapel has both historic and communal merit and is a very important part of Barrow’s history,” the parish council said in a submission to planners at County Hall.

“Barrow will solely comprise separate new-build housing estates with ‘no soul or local significance’. There is no evidence in the application to justify the chapel’s demolition.”

The parish authority also demanded that if demolition were to go ahead, features from the flattened buildings should be incorporated into their replacements.

However, Lancashire County Council – which operates the school under a so-called “voluntary-controlled” arrangement – said that the reuse of walling stone and corner feature stones known as “quoins”, would add an extra £22,000 to the bill for the new building.

A commitment has now been made to include the stone window surrounds from the existing chapel into a slightly revised design and also to ensure that a war memorial plaque is retained and displayed, along with the church date stone and an organ plaque The organ itself has already been dismantled after being found to contain asbestos material.

The new buildings will be constructed from a mix of new stone and white render; a report by planning officers concluded that there was no “predominant” building material in the surrounding area.

Lancashire County Council granted permission for the scheme under urgent decision-making powers used during the coronavirus crisis, shortly before remote meetings of its development control committee – a cross-party group of elected councillors which makes planning decisions – started meeting again remotely earlier this month. It was permitted after consultation with the chair and deputy chair of the committee.

Last year, members heard during consideration of the application for the first phase of the extension that the school was almost three times oversubscribed for reception entry – even after a proposed increase of 10 pupils to be admitted each year from this September, taking the total annual intake to 30.

That first stage of the extension, to the rear of the school, is due to be completed by September, with work on the chapel then set to begin.

In statement issued after the planning decision, County Cllr Phillippa Williamson, cabinet member for schools, said: “We are constantly reviewing changing demographic factors to make sure that we have the right number of school places throughout the county.

“Local housing development in the Ribble Valley has led to increased demand for places in the area and some of these will be provided by the expansion of Barrow Primary School, in line with the council’s policy.

“Now that this latest planning permission has been granted we will be able to continue with Phase 2 of this project and continue to extend and remodel the school to accommodate the expected increase in pupil numbers.”