New conversion plans for Harrogate's former post office submitted to council

New conversion plans have been revealed for Harrogate's former central post office after previous proposals were criticised as being "far too dominant" for the high street.

By Jacob Webster
Tuesday, 12th July 2022, 9:54 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th July 2022, 10:11 am
Photo: The former base of Harrogate's central post office before it relocated in 2019.
Photo: The former base of Harrogate's central post office before it relocated in 2019.

The Cambridge Street building has stood empty ever since the post office controversially relocated to its current base at WHSmith in 2019.

Proposals for 25 apartments and offices were then revealed a year later, however, these were withdrawn after objections from groups including Harrogate Civic Society which said while it wanted to see the 125-year-old building brought back into use, the proposals were "too intensive".

Scaled back plans for 11 apartments and retail space have now been submitted to Harrogate Borough Council which aims to make a decision before the end of August.

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Documents submitted to the council said the ground floor of the building would be kept as retail space while the apartments would have either one or two bedrooms.

The documents said: "The building has stood vacant for a prolonged period of time and is therefore doing little for general levels of activity and perceptions of this part of the conservation area.

"The proposed development will therefore secure the active re-use of this long-standing vacant building with an entirely appropriate mix of uses within a town centre location that will enhance the general appearance of the building."

While the former post office is located within Harrogate's conservation area, it is not a listed building.

It first opened in 1897 and was designed by architect Sir Henry Tanner.

After serving the town for 122 years, the post office relocated to WHSmith at the Victoria Shopping Centre in May 2019 as part of similar plans for 40 branches across the UK.

This was despite a campaign by the community and Harrogate MP Andrew Jones who raised concerns that services could be “downgraded” under the move - something Post Office bosses have always disputed.

New conversion plans have been revealed for Harrogate's former central post office after previous proposals were criticised as being "far too dominant" for the high street.

The Cambridge Street building has stood empty ever since the post office controversially relocated to its current base at WHSmith in 2019.

Proposals for 25 apartments and offices were then revealed a year later, however, these were withdrawn after objections from groups including Harrogate Civic Society which said while it wanted to see the 125-year-old building brought back into use, the proposals were "too intensive".

Scaled back plans for 11 apartments and retail space have now been submitted to Harrogate Borough Council which aims to make a decision before the end of August.

Documents submitted to the council said the ground floor of the building would be kept as retail space, while the apartments would have either one or two bedrooms.

The documents said: "The building has stood vacant for a prolonged period of time and is therefore doing little for general levels of activity and perceptions of this part of the conservation area.

"The proposed development will therefore secure the active re-use of this long-standing vacant building with an entirely appropriate mix of uses within a town centre location that will enhance the general appearance of the building."

While the former post office is located within Harrogate's conservation area, it is not a listed building.

It first opened in 1897 and was designed by architect Sir Henry Tanner.

After serving the town for 122 years, the post office relocated to WHSmith at the Victoria Shopping Centre in May 2019 as part of similar plans for 40 branches across the UK.

This was despite a campaign by residents and Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones who raised concerns that services could be “downgraded” under the move - something Post Office bosses have always disputed.

The original conversion plans were submitted on behalf of the Post Office by Harrogate-based developers One Acre Group, while the latest proposals are from Leeds-based property firm Priestley Homes.

Priestley Homes purchased the building earlier this year when it said its conversion plans would cost £1.5 million if approved.

It also said the works would run over eight weeks with completion in 2023.

Speaking at the time, Nathan Priestley, chief executive of Priestley Homes, said: "As a Yorkshire-based business, we're always happy to be working on projects and invest throughout the county.

"Harrogate continues to be one of Yorkshire's most desirable places to live and visit, and this development, if approved, will provide more varied accommodation options in the area.

"The plans for these apartments meet the highest specification while retaining local heritage that is so important to us."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter