HEREFORD Cathedral School's proposal to turn former military barracks into a boarding school has been refused due to the historical significance of the building.

The school wanted to demolish the existing building in Harold Street in Hereford, which was formerly the Herefordshire Council Record Office, and build a new boarding house to accommodate 49 pupils.

The building, which is owned by the council, has been left empty since January 2014 but concerns were raised by councillors when they heard it had not been put on the open market.

Herefordshire Council's Planning Committee was told the barracks were constructed in 1856 and the conservation manager had expressed strong opposition due to is historic significance.

Planning officer Ed Thomas said: "The harm arising from the wholesale demolition weighs heavy against the scheme."

The proposed boarding school would have been taller than the current building and have a contemporary appearance.

Tony Taylor, representing the Bartonsham History Group, said although people refer to it as a former record office, it was firstly a military barracks, which had been put up all across England during the Victorian age. He added they were disappointed the building wasn't listed and said: "Once we lose that heritage asset, it is gone forever."

The school's headmaster, Paul Smith, emphasised how much the school brings to the county of Herefordshire as a thriving business.

He said the school employs 190 staff who receive total annual salaries of £5.5m, £200,000 is spent annually on maintenance (using many local contractors and suppliers) and £100,000 is spent annually on local cleaning contracts and a similar amount on food, sourced locally where possible.

He said: "That said, we are not immune to falling pupil numbers in this county. The introduction of a boarding house will mitigate against this."

Mr Smith said the building is not in a conservation area, is not listed and has little in the way of architectural expression.

Cllr Dave Greenhow said he was concerned that the building was not put on the open market as it could give someone else the opportunity to buy it and keep the building.

Cllr Graham Powell said: "I support the ambitions of the school. It is a school we should all be extremely proud of. I hope as a council we can work with the school to either reach a conclusion wrapped around the current building or find an alternative building within striking distance of the school that would be suitable for this purpose."

Cllr Terry James said the building was used in the First World War. He said:"Let's remember ordinary working lads- squaddies- who went from that building to die for this country in the war and we want to demolish that building."

The council committee voted to reject the application.