A FORMER preparatory school in Ben Rhydding has reopened as the clubhouse centrepiece to a luxury retirement village.

Building firm Wates Construction this week officially handed over the keys of Clevedon House to the development’s owner, Audley.

The reconstructed historic 19th Century building, once home to Clevedon House School, now houses a restaurant, swimming pool, gym, apartments and communal facilities available to residents of the 98-home retirement development.

Audley runs five other luxury retirement communities in the UK.

Chief executive officer Nick Sanderson came to Ilkley on Tuesday to pick up the keys to Clevedon House.

The handover marked the opening of the communal and leisure facilities at Clevedon House, although the formal launch of the Audley Club facilities, and the whole Clevedon retirement village, is scheduled at the end of this month.

The first resident moved into the development, off Ben Rhydding Drive, in July.

Clevedon House School itself closed in summer 2005.

The disappearance of the old school building caused a stir among Ben Rhydding residents when they discovered it had gone, early in 2008.

The then Raven Audley Court revealed it had marked each stone and put them in safe storage, ready to rebuild the shell of the building around a new construction.

It emerged that planning conditions – backed by Bradford Council and given the final go-ahead by the Government in 2007 – did not preclude the dismantling and reconstruction of the building’s facade.

The Victorian building was once a house, later becoming a sanatorium, before being converted to a school. The reconstruction of the old school building facade was completed this summer.

Audley’s marketing of the apartments at the Clevedon development also attracted some criticism.

Ilkley parish councillors called on Audley to explain its marketing policies, concerned that the emphasis was on luxury retirement living, instead of selling the homes specifically to older people with care needs.

The company has since explained that prospective new residents must be over 60. Audley says prospective residents are invited to discuss current and potential future requirements with the development’s head of care and advised that their new home is intended to be for the rest of their lives.

On-site staff can help residents with housekeeping or personal homecare as needed.

The development is within a protected Green Belt area and to gain planning permission the developer had to demonstrate very special circumstances for siting the scheme there. Part of the planning agreement requires the housing to go primarily to older people with care needs.

Audley recently announced that a limited number of memberships to its Audley Club leisure facilities would be opened to Ilkley people outside of the Clevedon development. The firm currently runs six luxury retirement communities, including Clevedon, with two more being developed. Clevedon is billed on the company’s website as Audley’s flagship retirement village.

It is thought to have cost in the region of £20million to develop.

The apartments, with one and two bedrooms, on site have a guide price from £249,000.