A SCHOOL abandoned after a child sex abuse scandal three decades ago is on its way to becoming a luxury party spot.
A mansion near Thatcham was home to Crookham Court School – which closed in 1989 after a BBC investigation found teachers were assaulting teenagers.
Since then, the building has remained empty. Its owners have however recently renovated and renamed the mansion, now called Pinchington Hall.
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Linda Beechey-Smith, who runs a luxury furnished apartment company, wants to use Pinchington Hall as a venue for “very upscale events,” such as small weddings, corporate functions, exclusive concerts, exhibitions. art, an outdoor cinema and an AirBnB.
She applied for a business license from the West Berkshire Council to sell alcohol in a bar in the cellar and to play live and recorded music inside and outside the mansion.
The building has a long history and is even mentioned in the Domesday Book. Built in its current form in 1850, it has been empty since 1989, when the infamous boarding school closed.
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Child abuse at school was revealed in an investigation by the BBC’s That’s Life program in 1988. Three teachers and the owner of the school were later convicted of sexual abuse and sent to jail.
Ms Beechey-Smith presented her case for the use of Pinchington Hall as a meeting place for the board’s licensing committee, at a public meeting on May 18. She said: “It’s a nice renovation and it’s a building that should be used. It shouldn’t be left empty any longer.
But neighbors have raised concerns about Pinchington Hall’s noise level if it grants them a license to operate. The mansion is just opposite Thornford Park: a secure psychiatric hospital.
Mike Bloomfield told the licensing committee that this was a “totally inappropriate location.” He said: “It is a fairly peaceful rural area. If Pinchington Hall becomes a place to party, there is no way to stop their noise which affects the countryside and all who live there.
“A tranquil atmosphere is particularly important for a secure mental hospital like Thornford Park. Autistic patients in the hospital are particularly sensitive to noise and will suffer from it. It sounds completely crazy.
The advisers of the authorization committee will decide in the coming days whether or not to grant the operating permit, and the council will publish the decision on its website before Tuesday May 26.
The premises license would likely allow a maximum of 120 guests and music could be played outside until 11 p.m. and indoors until midnight. The exact conditions will be specified, if and when the license is granted.