AN INDEPENDENT school in Pembrokeshire is on the move to a former manor house on the outskirts of Narberth.

The county council’s planning committee gathered last Tuesday (July 28) to approve the application from Castle School principal, Harriet Harrison.

She sought permission for the change of use of the Grade II listed Sodston Manor to an independent school, together with the siting of new classroom buildings and toilet block within the grounds.

Members heard that Castle School currently operates from a former primary school in Cresselly, catering for 11-18 year old pupils who travel from across Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.

It has been a real success story, with pupil numbers rising from 23 when it opened in 2009 to 97 at present, with 25 staff employed.

Addressing the committee as the local member was County Councillor Wynne Evans.

He said: “My interest in this application concerns the economy of Narberth.

“I do feel that if this school is granted permission today, my swimming pool in Narberth would benefit, as would the community centre, the rugby field and football complex.

“I know this building quite well. It has fallen into disrepair over the last eight years and needs TLC.

“It’s a wonderful historic building in the community and it’s something that I’m sure Mrs Harrison will care for over many years.”

Planning agent Andrew Vaughan-Harries said: “I’m delighted to see both as a Pembrokeshire man and as a planning consultant that here we have a Grade II listed building being brought back to life.

“We have too many derelict important buildings sitting there empty.

“Mrs Harrison purchased this house for £270,000 and has already carried out £230,000 worth of refurbishments. That’s half a million pounds of her own money bringing this building back to its former glory.”

He added: “The school in Cresselly is only leased to them, and that premises was looked at to be expanded, but it wasn’t deemed suitable. Why would you invest money in something you don’t own?

“Cresselly as you know is out in the sticks, so the decision was made to move to Sodston.”

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the recommendation for approval.

Welcoming the decision after the meeting, Mrs Harrison said: “We are delighted with the consent and can now proceed, as planned, to be operational from the new site in September.”