THE transformation of a historic York primary school into housing has finally begun – more than a decade after pupils left for the last time.

Shipton Street School has been boarded up, derelict and often dogged by controversy since closing in 2002. But its new lease of life is now drawing closer after construction work on a £5.5 million scheme to build 38 new homes on the site started yesterday.

The development, which will be known as Bootham Green, will be completed in autumn, with 24 of the houses – one of which will be topped by the site’s bell tower – being created in the Grade II-listed school buildings. The playground will become a landscaped courtyard and parking area.

Developers Rushbond Group and Advent Developments were yesterday joined by Clifton councillor Ken King – a long-standing supporter of the housing scheme – to mark the start of the work. The site was once considered as a potential new home for the Arc Light homeless centre, but this was abandoned following intense local opposition.

Coun King said: “The school was a much-loved part of the community and countless York residents have very fond memories of their school years there. Many generations of children have been educated in the school since it opened in 1890, so it’s exciting to see the conversion work get under way.

"This is an important and exciting new development and there’s no doubt it will make a positive contribution to the local community, as well as providing much-needed new homes in this sought-after part of York.”

The developers said Bootham Green would be the first major housing development built within walking distance of the city centre in more than four years.

Jonathan Maud, of Rushbond, said: “We’re delighted to start work and have been inundated with positive feedback from the local community as well as potential buyers and people who have links with the school.

“Everybody is thrilled to see this stunning building being protected and transformed to create quality housing.”

Mr Maud said the homes within the school buildings will include some of the original features and the one, two and three-bedroom houses, whose prices will start from £125,000, will use eco-technology to cut energy costs. The work is being carried out by Esh Construction.