Thursday, December 12, 2013

News: Doncaster Gate not considered an asset of community value


Rotherham Council is set to reject a community bid to have the historic former Doncaster Gate hospital listed as an asset of community value, a move that, if accepted, could save it from the wrecking ball.

In October, Rotherham Council's cabinet approved plans to demolish Rotherham's first purpose-built hospital, which is in its ownership, in a bid to save costs and attract a greater interest in the opportunities for development of the site.

In November, a bid led by the Rotherham District Civic Society was submitted to the council under The Community Right to Bid.

The Community Right to Bid, introduced as part of the Localism Act 2011, enables town and parish councils and local voluntary and community organisations to nominate local land or buildings to be included in lists of community assets maintained by local authorities. Whilst a successful attempt may not stop the demolition, it would have begun a six month process that allows the community interest group to express an interest in bidding to purchase the property.

At its cabinet meeting next week, members are being asked to confirm that the application to have the former Doncaster Gate offices listed as an asset of community value be rejected.

The Victorian, pavilion-type hospital building dates back to the 1870's and was developed at a cost of around £9,000, raised through local donations. A major factor in the hospital's creation was to provide Rotherham with a facility that could serve the many local workers who became victims of industrial accidents.

Designed by Mallison & Bakewell of Leeds and built in a striking Tudor Revival style, complete with stone mullioned windows, the hospital underwent modernisation in the 1930's and the modern Health Village extension was completed in 2004.

The council stated that the site has been a target for criminal activity and vandalism and currently costs £100,000 a year to keep in its current deteriorating state. This could be reduced to £10,000 per year if the hospital is demolished. The council added that it could cost up to £4m to put the building into a useable condition and secure its future use.

Campaigners fighting to save the building from the wrecking ball have been hampered by English Heritage knocking back an application to have it listed and by Rotherham Council not extending the town's conservation area to cover Doncaster Gate, despite the cabinet member approving the extension in 2008 based on the recommendations of the council's own officers.

The Rotherham District Civic Society believes that the fa├žade of the building should be retained in a development that may include community and heritage uses. It adds in the bid document that it believes that the building is an asset of community value as it was built using public subscriptions, is a well known feature of the town centre and contains a war memorial and a number of features of local interest.

In assessing the Community Right to Bid, the council concludes that the current use of Doncaster Gate does not "further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community" as the building is vacant. It adds that "no firm proposals have been presented to the Council that would enable it to conclude it is realistic to believe the property could be brought back into use as a community asset."

However, the cabinet is set to agree to allow any interested parties until 24 January 2014 to bring forward to the Council any re-development proposals which retain all or a significant part of the building.

"Soft-stripping" of the building has begun and demolition is scheduled to commence in February 2014.

Images: Doncaster Gate Heritage project


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