On 30 March the Executive Committee of Bolton Council voted unanimously to demolish the former Clarence Street Community College. The fate of this handsome (but sadly unlisted) council-owned 1880s Board School, designed by the prominent local architect Jonathan Simpson, became a national story when SAVE successfully issued an injunction to halt demolition work in October last year. The council had started demolition work after unlawfully granting itself consent under delegated powers. This came just months after the same council had produced a report which praised the building – identifying it as a key local landmark ‘worthy of retention’. The building was to be replaced by a temporary car park.
Since halting demolition and quashing the planning consent, SAVE has been looking at ways to encourage the council to retain and refurbish the building – soliciting advice and support from the Churches Conservation Trust and the Princes Regeneration Trust. SAVE was also able to correct inflated figures given in a council report which stated the cost of scaffolding the building at £350,000. Following a visit from SAVE’s specialist contractor this figure was revised to £80,000. However, this was not enough to sway the council which seemed determined to finish a bad job. In a sad reflection of how the Bolton’s elected officials value the heritage of their town, of the 60 councillors contacted by SAVE prior to the latest planning meeting, only three replied. Demolition was justified purely on economic grounds - the part-demolition of the building raising costs of repair considerably.
William Palin, Secretary of SAVE, says ‘We are deeply disappointed by this news. The council has sanctioned the destruction of a fine and important landmark building which could easily have been repaired and reused – as has been demonstrated by numerous successful Board School conversions all over the country. By using the part destruction of the building as a reason for its total demolition we believe the council has taken advantage of its own unlawful behaviour - the grossly inflated scaffolding costs providing further evidence of a dismissive attitude to historic buildings in its care. This is a short sighted decision which will deprive an already degraded area of the town of one of its best buildings.’
We reported in December 2008:
SAVE Legal Challenge Secures Reprieve For Victorian School
SAVE Britain's Heritage is delighted to announce that Clarence Street School in Bolton has been granted a reprieve after the Council conceded that its decision to demolish it for temporary car park was unlawful.