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Sunday, 21 September 2014

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Kirkgate Centre and conservation areas

I have followed the discussions around the planned extension to the Kirkgate Centre with more than a passing interest.

For my first 17 years I lived in the lower reaches of Kirkgate, I attended the school for 6 years and my mother was the last school caretaker of the building.

And for the last two reasons, I actually hate the place.

It is a building that has no architectural merit whatsoever and with the monstrous prefabricated building still sitting at the top of the car park, should have been earmarked for demolition years ago.

Although the hard working people at the Kirkgate Centre have shoehorned in a theatre and various other rooms, it really isn’t fit for purpose and could/should have been swept from the face of the earth and a proper arts centre built, maybe somewhere else in town (I have some ideas on that front but I’ll keep them to myself.)

Therefore, the quite extreme extension proposed couldn’t, in my humble opinion, make it any worse.

However, my support comes with a caveat: If you are going to allow these plans to proceed it fundamentally changes the whole fabric of this historic part of town.

Kirkgate is a conservation area and, in line with the planning rules, it and the surrounding areas have faced quite draconian restrictions on what they can and can’t do with the properties that lie within it.

No plastic window frames, even when they replicate the original wooden sash windows for example.

I even know of one building that had to have part of its roof replaced in line with the materials and workmanship of the original even though the result could not be seen save from the top of the Fire Service extending ladder!

So, if the plans for the Kirkgate Centre are to be allowed then the planning authority must revisit the rules for everyone else otherwise it is patently unfair.

So, by all means improve the lump of a building and make it more fit for purpose but cut some slack to the people who live around it.

By Ashley Tiffen
Published: October 10, 2012

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