DEVELOPERS behind the planned transformation of a former York school are looking to lower the number of low-cost homes the scheme will provide.

Excavation work on the playground area of the Shipton Street School site, which has been derelict for more than nine years, began last month and work on the full 37-home project is currently earmarked to start early in the New Year.

Advent Developments, which has drawn up the Shipton Mews project, has reassured residents that the historic former school buildings will not be bulldozed as they are seen as an integral part of the work and have listed status.

The company has also applied to City of York Council for permission to reduce the affordable housing levels on the site from the 12 properties which were originally agreed to nine.

The development, next to York City’s Bootham Crescent ground, has been hampered by delays for several years and has led to the school site being dubbed an eyesore.

The Homes and Communities Agency has agreed to provide funding for the scheme through its Get Britain Building initiative, and Advent spokesman Tim Reeve said the firm was now finalising other funding details ahead of work on the scheme starting.

“The aim of the development is to give the school buildings a new lease of life and they will be converted rather than demolished, with family homes being created where the classrooms once were,” he said.

“The work taking place at the moment concerns excavation, which is a precursor to hopefully starting the conversion and refurbishment of the school buildings in the New Year. We are currently in final negotiations over the funding which is key to delivering the scheme.

“Changing market conditions have prevented us starting work on the site so far, since when there have been adjustments to York’s affordable housing policy. If our application regarding this is approved, 25 per cent of the homes will still be high-quality affordable housing.”

The school site was initially suggested as a potential new base for the Arc Light homeless centre, but this possibility was abandoned following local opposition. The new homes at Shipton Mews are set to be two storeys high and the scheme will include a courtyard, open space and gated access arrangements.