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Loss of Leek building could go to the Ombudsman

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: June 23, 2014

Roger Warrillow watches as workmen prepare to take down the William Carr Gymnasium.

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THE saga of removing an historical building in Leek is set to go to the Ombudsman.

Last September Staffordshire Moorlands District Council gave approval to Leek College to redevelop its site in off Stockwell Street.

This included the demolition of the William Carr Gymnasium building, which has a historical ceiling and a facade designed by architect William Sugden.

Work started last week on pulling down the Victorian building, which has been part of Leek's landscape for 113 years, to make way for new engineering and construction facilities.

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But its historical façade is being retained and relocated to become a part of new pedestrian entrance to the college's campus off Stockwell Street. The ceiling is also to be preserved.

The gym was the last building to be designed by local architect William Larner Sugden.

Campaigner Roger Warrillow, a member of the Leek and District Civic Society, said: "It beggars belief they would do this. By taking down the façade, they are forgetting all about Leek's history.

"Just preserving it is not enough – it needs to be kept where it is. It is probably one of the most important buildings in Leek and it was designed to be viewed as part of an ensemble.

"The heritage and history of our town will be lost. Larner Sugden was a founder member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. This is a man that helped to set up a society to save old buildings and we are pulling his down.

"Unfortunately at the planning stage this ensemble was not recognised and not stated by the architects in their historical appraisal of the site.

"The entrance to the gymnasium Sugden Tower is set at a 45-degree angle to take the eye on entering the Nicholson Institute. The entrance to the Technical School had also to be incorporated, so Sugden moved the tower 10 feet so that once again the eye was taken to the 45 degree entrance. This ensemble has enhanced and served for the last 113 years.

"I have now put in a Stage One complaint to the council. I will then have to go on to Stage Two. If I get no satisfactory answer why this omission was made at the planning stage I will go to the Ombudsman."

Mr Warrilow has already presented a 5,000-name petition to councillors, objecting to the move.

College principle Len Tildsley said: "The William Carr Gymnasium is not a listed building but is considered as a curtilage building of the Grade 2* listed Nicholson Institute and College buildings just off Stockwell Street in Leek.

"Full planning permission and specific listed buildings consent were approved by Staffordshire Moorlands District Council as a unanimous decision and without objection from the public or from English Heritage.

"Many of the planning committee members chose to speak to the application, praising the quality of both the application and the design of the new campus buildings.

"One of the planning conditions related to the preservation and retention on-site of the entrance doorway and plaque of the William Carr Gymnasium. This, the only architecturally significant part of the building, should be protected and integrated into a suitable location within the new campus design.

"The William Carr Gymnasium has over a number of years been gradually phased out of use by the college. Its original construction, other than the entrance façade, was of poor quality and was never designed to provide for the needs of 21st Century students."

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