A LONG-RUNNING battle to transform a historic Bridgwater monument into a music and arts headquarters has been abandoned.

The Mercury can today reveal that the scheme to use Castle House for studio and practice rooms, a small cinema and an arts area will no longer be going ahead.

Instead outline planning permission has been granted which could see the heart of the first domestic concrete home in the UK gutted to convert it into three one-bedroom flats.

The Queen Street building had been earmarked by the music charity Strummerville as its headquarters and was featured on BBC2's Restoration programme nearly two years ago.

Townspeople in their thousands backed the bid to repair the dilapidated "Concrete Castle" and make it the base of the organisation set up in tribute to Bridgwater's late Clash singer Joe Strummer.

Until now, it was widely thought the charity and building owner the SAVE Trust were pressing ahead with the project but the Mercury has discovered this has not been the case for months.

Indeed Adam Wilkinson, secretary for the trust, admitted the planning application had first been put in for consideration more than two years ago.

"It's permission in the bag if you like," he said. "Unfortunately Strummerville pulled out as development partners maybe two months ago.

"They felt the cost of the project could be spent better elsewhere and I think they were put off by the attitude of the lottery."

At the height of media attention surrounding Castle House, celebrities including Jonathon Ross, the Scissor Sisters and Stephen Fry backed the cause. Internationally renowned artist Damien Hirst, a major Strummerville trustee, was also involved in trying to push the project forward. Now that effort seems to have been in vain.

If the building is converted into flats the integrity, character and appearance cannot be changed and other conditions, including details of electrical installations have to be detailed.

"We are still working through the options for the building. It's a question of whether we have housing or commercial use." Mr Wilkinson said.

"It is not definite that it is going to be converted into flats but it gives us the option to do so."