A SECRET garden in the centre of High Wycombe will be converted into homes after a ruling by a Government inspector.

The Wycombe Society has labelled the Planning Inspectorate’s decision to approve a plan for houses and flats to be built on a 0.48 hectare area of land behind Hamilton Academy in Priory Road as “tragic”.

Wycombe District Council originally threw out the application last October as it would result in the loss of a conservation area.

But Leywood Estates Limited took the authority to appeal and won.

The High Wycombe Society’s Chris Wood said: “This is tragic as there can’t be many big triangles of land in the town centre which gives us this sense of open space.

“We believe the inspectorate is entirely wrong in their decision and it just proves that it is not only groups like ourselves that are up against these problems but the district councils as well. It really is a great shame.”

The plan will see the derelict Fairacre building pulled down, with one terrace of three link-detached homes and a block of six flats built and an access road behind the academy being built on the land.

Inspector Joanna Reid said in her report that, taking into account ecological assessments carried out on the land, the development “would not harm biodiversity and nature conservation in the area”.

Hamilton Academy headteacher Graham Aldous said he expect the governors would discuss the matter when they next met in December.

Tim North, agent for the applicants, said: "We are very happy with the Inspectorate’s decision, it is the correct decision in this economic climate and my view is that it shouldn't have gone to appeal in the first place.

“As part of the appeal process the applicant has employed a very reputable firm of ecologists to assess the issues and nothing was found that could not be overcome."