Plans have been approved to convert the Old School Hall in Garlinge into an artist’s studio and exhibition space with ancillary facilities.
The building on Dent-de-Lion Road was sold at auction for £217,000 in February 2021.
It had been used as a church hall for years and many community groups were warned when St James Parish Church made the decision to close the facility, saying it needed too much maintenance.
Despite an expression of interest from the Garlinge Residents’ Association for the village to take over the site as a community asset via a lease agreement, it was sold on the open market.
Now a plan for the site, drawn up by TaD Planning Ltd on behalf of the new owner, artist Alex Calinescu, has been approved by Thanet District Council officers.
In a statement to council, TaD said: ‘At the start of 2020 Ms Calinescu saw Old School Hall advertised for sale by Caxtons and was immediately attracted to it. Unfortunately, it was already offered.
“A year later she noticed it was on the market again and this time she didn’t miss the chance to buy it.
“Ms. Calinescu immediately became aware of the considerable concern within the local community that the building would be demolished or turned into apartments.
“She had noticed a number of social media posts reflecting these concerns and decided to respond by explaining her love of the building, why she bought it and her respect for its history.
“Since buying Old School Hall, she has met many people who live in Garlinge.
“Everyone has been very welcoming and fully supportive of it becoming an artist’s studio, as well as a space for her.
“Ms Calinescu wants to be an active member of the community and living at the old school will allow her to do that.
“There were no objections to the change of use request from the local community.”
TaD Planning said the proposed works are the minimum modifications needed to create the paint shop with a small ancillary living space.
They include replacement wooden double doors on the facade, replacement wooden windows and the insertion of four dormers on the western slope of the roof.
TaD Planning added: “Alex Calinescu is a leading artist, speaker, teacher and mentor for young artists.
“She has hosted and participated in Open Studio events for many years and intends to continue to do so at Old School Hall to build relationships with the local community and schools.
“She intends to use the proposed studio as an exhibition space when collectors come to visit and during Open Studios.”
Council officers approved the plans stating that they would not cause significant damage to the character and appearance of the area or damage to undesignated heritage property.
They said the proposal would also not impact the living conditions of neighboring properties or harm road safety.
The building had previously been designated a Community Asset by Thanet District Council. It was removed from the list when it was sold.