Urgent action must be taken to protect a historic Ripon building that has been left to “rack and ruin”, the chair of the Ripon Civic Society, David Winpenny, has said in an impassioned plea.
A planning application submitted by Graycliffe Homes to convert the Old Lecture Block and former girls’ high school on College Road into apartments was originally deferred by Harrogate Borough Council’s planning committee for approval by the chief planning officer Gary Bell, but has now been withdrawn.
Although Mr Winpenny and the Civic Society did not object to the conversion in principle, they became increasingly distressed at the sight of missing slates and an exposed roof after the development was approved - which they said will only lead to further deterioration.
Repeatedly calling for the developers to take action and protect the block, the latest decision to withdraw the application created more alarm among members of the Civic Society - but thanks to their continued appeals, Harrogate Borough Council is issuing a section 215 notice to the owners, which is likely to include an order to reinstate the roof.
Mr Winpenny said: “It was the girls’ high school, and quite a lot of people remember it as the high school. Then it became the lecture block and a centre for lifelong learning.
"It will have generated memories over the years. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence from people telling us how much of a terrible condition they think the building is in.
“We didn’t object to its conversion to apartments, although it would be better to keep it in public use - we realise that it’s not very feasible.”
The Civic Society called on Harrogate Borough Council to take steps to preserve the building.
Speaking to the Gazette before the council’s decision to issue a notice, Mr Winpenny said: “The first thing now is for the council to act on it, and ensure that the roof is covered and the building is watertight.
“It is an attractive building in its own right, and it needs to be preserved.
“It is part of Ripon’s history, and part of the fabric of the city that holds quite a lot of memories for people.”
Graycliffe Homes, listed as the owners on the last planning application, have been approached for comment.
How important do you think the old lecture building is to Ripon? Get in touch: Email firstname.lastname@example.org