A planning application has been submitted to demolish Ripon’s Old Lecture Block and former girls’ high school on College Road.
Members of Ripon Civic Society and concerned residents are urging the rest of the city to join them in fighting the plans. Property developers Graycliffe Homes submitted the application after ground investigations revealed “serious gypsum deposits” below the property.
The firm originally planned to convert the Old Lecture Block into apartments. The Chair of Ripon Civic Society, David Winpenny - and Bill and Barbara Cross, who live on College Road, claimed the developers deliberately left the building to deteriorate for it to then be demolished, after facing planning hurdles.
Responding to the claims, Jean Butterfield of Graycliffe Homes, said: “We take great exception to any accusation levelled at us suggesting we have been party to the building’s deterioration.
“We have not. The building has been systematically stripped and vandalised and we are powerless to stop this, even with police intervention.”
Mrs Cross said the building must be preserved. She said: “It is part of the history of Ripon, it is just one of those buildings that is very important for the city and I don’t see why we should lose that. I’d urge people to get involved to fight against this, once a building is gone it’s gone.”
Mr Cross said: “We feel cheated I suppose, it looks as though it has been a deliberate attempt to let the building go to rack and ruin.”
Graycliffe said: “We too are extremely frustrated. We have tried for quite a few years to obtain planning permission to develop the site. There have been a lot of obstacles placed before us which we have tried to satisfy.
“A few years back Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) agreed, with a large firm of over 55’s housing provider, that they could not foresee any problem with demolition and new development. Unfortunately this did not go ahead due to impasse in negotiations between the two parties.
“After meetings with the planning department we subsequently submitted an application which was granted, subject to ground reports being supplied to HBC. These reports came back showing gypsum deposits underneath the existing building.We approached warranty providers, who provide 10 year building guarantees insurance, for their comments.
"Of the three we approached none would agree to offer warranties on retention of the existing building. Their engineers did stress that their concerns were based on the fact that any stripping out and alteration works to the existing building and basement areas would have major impact and cause extreme distress to the building, and given the known ground conditions below, would make this a high risk development in that form.”