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More pressure to save Leek historic building

By Leek Post and Times  |  Posted: May 24, 2014

By Leslie Jackson

  • Roger Warrillow and his wife Jan present a letter outlining the historical aspect of the Leek buildings at 10 Downing Street.

  • A painting of the historical college buildings and another of the Greystones with the Nicholson Institute in the background were presented to the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings in London by Mr Warrillow

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A LEEK man has spoken of his disappointment after he was refused permission to speak to councillors about his efforts to preserve the historical features of a college building in their present location.

Last September Staffordshire Moorlands District Council gave approval to Leek College to redevelop its site.

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

The college has confirmed that the facade will be retained in the proposed development, but not at the same location.

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Last week Roger Warrillow, a member of Leek and District Civic Society, presented a 5,000-name petition to councillors objecting to the proposal.

He also took the fight to London last week when he visited 10 Downing Street, the offices of Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and the Society for the Protection Ancient Buildings.

However, Mr Warrillow said he was not allowed to address a meeting of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.

He added: "I was promised I could speak at the district council meeting for three minutes and had written down all the facts and information.

"When I arrived I was told I could not. It is incredible when the local council refuses to let you speak on such a matter of importance.

"This historical issue should have been raised by the council's planning conservation officer when the planning application was heard.

"When I wrote to Eric Pickles I asked the question, would Charles Barry, the Victorian architect of the mock-Gothic building, the Houses of Parliament, like his design view moved so that another architect's building in the background could be more visible.

"The answer would surely be no.

"Neither do we in Leek want this to happen to our arts and craft building, the ensemble which includes the facade entrance to the William Carr Gymnasium by our Victorian architect William Larner Sugden. Heritage planning policy states that local planning authority should refuse consent, unless it can be demonstrated that the substantial harm or loss is necessary to achieve substantial public benefit. The policy seeks to safeguard and where possible change the historic environment."

"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.

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

A spokesperson for Staffordshire Moorlands District Council said: "The petition presented by Mr Warrillow concerned a regulatory matter and this is normally outside the scope of the council's petition scheme.

"However, the council agreed to formally accept the petition on this occasion in acknowledgement of the signatories and Mr Warrillow was able to say a few words to the meeting.

"The planning application to which the petition relates was determined by committee in September last year.

"Consultation was carried out with various parties prior to consideration of this application including the conservation officer and the Conservation Liaison Panel, and their comments were taken into account by the committee."

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