Plans to demolish Clitheroe’s former union workhouse and community hospital have been branded “a total disgrace”.
Local campaigners have reacted with fury at the decision to pull down the historic building allowing 60 homes to be built on the Chatburn Road site - despite thousands signing a petition against the plans.
The application from McDermott Developments Ltd and NHS Property Services for full planning permission to demolish all buildings and build 60 houses was approved by members of Ribble Valley Borough Council’s planning and development committee.
Prior to the meeting Clitheroe Civic Society, Clitheroe Town Council and Lancashire Archaeological Advisory Service, who were all consulted about the plans, objected to the application because of the building’s social, historic and architectural importance.
More than 2,100 people had also signed a petition to stop the demolition.
However, members of the committee voted closely in favour of the application for the demolition of the former Clitheroe Union Workhouse and Community Hospital, which had been recommended for “deferral and delegated for approval” by the local planning officer.
Dismayed members of Clitheroe Residents Action Group took to social media to express their anger.
One said: “Once again the wishes of many people are just ignored. A total disgrace.”
Another wrote: “Sad day for Clitheroe yet again. We have lost our lovely market town. None of us are against some development, but this should have and could have been saved.”
Also upset is campaigner and vice chairman of the Civic Society, Steve Burke, who commented: “CCS is most disappointed. It was a close decision on the night and we accept that these decisions are not easily made, or arrived at.
“Often conflicting issues have to balance against each other for the long term benefit of our community.
“This is ‘Planning in Action’ that even more houses trumps our historic heritage - and at a time when the borough council’s permission are in excess of targets - indicates to our society that the application of adopted strategies is actually out of balance and subservient to more housing to the exclusion of almost all other issues.
“This indicates the ‘absence of planning’ to us.
He added: “We thank those councillors who did vote against this application, Clitheroe Town Council and all the conservation organisations and societies, plus the public who signed the petition to save these significant buildings.”
Speaking after the meeting, Lib Dem Coun. Sue Knox, said: “NHS Estates have shown a lack of vision, they could’ve built housing that would meet the needs of the population and would help avoid hospital admission and speed up hospital discharge.
“Instead, they went for as much money as they could get and to add insult to injury they are knocking down a part of Clitheroe’s heritage. Should we blame the current government’s chronic under funding of the NHS?”
Clitheroe Union Workhouse was built between 1870 and 1873 to house 200 people, with a separate 36 bed hospital block which was completed in December 1874.
There were numerous alterations to the layout of the building in the 20th Century, when the building was in use as a hospital.
A similar application to demolish the buildings and develop the site for housing was submitted to planners in 2008, but thrown out after a fierce campaign of opposition.
The former workhouse and infirmary buildings are classed as “non-designated heritage assets” and opposition to their demolition was too strong for planners and councillors to ignore.
More plans, which did propose to keep the old front hospital building and convert it into apartments, were recommended for approval in 2012 by Ribble Valley Borough Council subject to a detailed legal agreement.
No significant objections were made to these plans, but as the applicant had failed to complete the legal agreement by 2015, the application was determined as having been withdrawn and was effectively refused.