ONE of England's most elite private schools is looking to majorly expand its boarding house accommodation in a controversial move hugely protested by its neighbours and town councillors.

Abingdon School, which has just over 1,000 boys from age 11-18, of which around 140 are boarder, says it needs new and improved living quarters as part of its 'masterplan to evolve'.

Vale of White Horse District Council planning committee debated two applications made by the private school, which has recently been embroiled in two high-profile scandals.

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They include demolishing existing extensions to Austin House and Crescent House living quarters, remodelling them and erecting three-storey linked extensions.

Austin House, which accommodates the housemaster and his family, and 29 boarding pupils, is a Grade II listed building.

The site is located within the Albert Park Conservation Area (CA) and Albert Park, which is a Grade II Registered Park and Garden.

Crescent House, on the other hand, consists of three separate buildings – Glyndowr, Cobban House, and Crescent House, is a home for 56 boys.

The house also fronts onto Park Crescent and Albert Park.

A number of objections have already been made about the two applications including from Abingdon Town Council, Abingdon Civic Society and residents.

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These include 'substantial harm' to the Albert Park Conservation Area, damage to a Grade II listed building, lack of evidence to public benefit and overdevelopment of the site in terms of size, scale, bulk and massing.

Ward councillor for Abingdon Eric De La Harpe, whose two children were boarders at Austin House, said at the meeting: "I remember seeing the boarding house a few years ago and yes, it was tired and not fit for purpose.

"Then, I do have sympathy for the residents – there is this creeping development.

"The scale and mass of Abingdon School has changed substantially in the last ten years and many residents, rightfully, feel threatened by that."

Planning permission and listed building consent were granted by the Vale committee, however, some councillors, like Ron Bathstone, remained with 'serious misgivings' about the plans.