Time to renovate listed school, not pull it down

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The decision of the Executive of Burnley Council to demolish the well-loved Glebe Street Community Centre in Burnley Wood looks to have been done because that was the preference of the developer, Keepmoat.

The council certainly has left the impression of acting in accordance with the wishes of the company rather than taking notice of public opinion.

I would like to bring to the attention of your readers another case where the public interest and that of Keepmoat may differ.

On Accrington Road is the former Woodtop School. This has languished well over a decade since the school was last used as a school. It is a listed building bought by the council from a private developer with the benefit of a well-considered plan for its restoration and conversion to housing.

The fact that, during the years of council ownership, the building has been allowed to fall further into dereliction is a scandal. I have, on at least half a dozen occasions, exercised my right as a resident of this town to ask at meetings of the council what are the council’s intentions for the building. I have never had a reply which gave me any information.

Because of this evasiveness, I can only conclude the intention is to demolish the property and thereafter offer the site to Keepmoat as an extension to its housing adjacent. This would result in a considerable loss to the tax-payer as the value of the site would be considerably less than the council paid for the building together with all the expenditure since; it would also mean conniving in the destruction of a listed building – something a private owner would never be allowed to do where there is a perfectly good scheme to restore the property and bring it back into use.

The motivation seems to be private profit. To restore the Woodtop School would be costly – any developer would make little from the conversion to housing; but that is the whole point of the listing system - to prevent destruction of our heritage in the pursuit of profit. May I suggest the council shows a little resolve.

Keepmoat is in the favoured position of being allowed to develop housing sites, provided by our council, without having to compete with other potential developers. The council has just done it a big favour in Burnley Wood. How about twisting this company’s arm to require it to carry out the renovation of the Woodtop School? One good turn surely deserves another.

John Rowe

Burnley