Plea to help save iconic building

Members of Clitheroe Civic Society protest against the demolition of the former Clitheroe Hospital building. They are, from left, Ruth Thompson, Steve Burke, Len Middleton and Duncan Thompson.
Members of Clitheroe Civic Society protest against the demolition of the former Clitheroe Hospital building. They are, from left, Ruth Thompson, Steve Burke, Len Middleton and Duncan Thompson.

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever!”

That’s the stark warning from a conservation group which fights to protect the borough’s social and architectural heritage as an application to demolish Clitheroe’s former community hospital is set to be considered by planners.

“The building is an significant historic boundary marker as you come into the town from the North East,” said local conservation architect Steve Burke, who is vice chairman of Clitheroe Civic Society. We have many historic buildings in Clitheroe, but very few have such iconic significance and impact. The former Clitheroe Union Workhouse building is up there with the parish church and Clitheroe Castle as far as social and historic significance is concerned and once it’s gone, it’s gone forever!”

Hoping that the former Clitheroe Hospital on Chatburn Road can be saved, Clitheroe Civic Society is urging local councillors and residents to oppose plans to demolish the building and use the site for housing.

“We’re not trying to stop development – we know that something will eventually happen to those buildings and that site, but why more housing? Why can’t we have a proposal with more vision, one that will also safeguard these important pieces of local history.” said Steve. “Look what James Warburton has achieved with Holmes Mill and the former Methodist chapel in Moor Lane. Why allow external developers to profit at the loss to our communal heritage,” he added.

Steve suggested mixed use plans for the site could be considered with the buildings converted for use as commercial or light industrial uses – thereby providing small business premises for all those people buying new houses in the Valley. Part of the buildings could also be readily converted into apartments or commercial offices.

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.

The current application relating to the site has been submitted by NHS Property Services Ltd which wants to demolish two of the former hospital buildings, which were originally a workhouse and an infirmary, plus a number of other buildings and other structures. It wants to build up to 50 properties in their place including 12 two bedroom houses, 20 three bed houses, 14 four bed houses and four five bed houses. A proportion, 14%, of the properties will be affordable housing.

Why some of the buildings cannot be retained frustrates Clitheroe Civic Society members.

“In 2008 an application was submitted for the redevelopment of the site including demolition of all existing buildings. Studies prepared on behalf of Clitheroe Civic Society showed that there was an alternative to complete demolition of these heritage asset buildings,” said Steve.

“The scheme, prepared by local architects Stanton Andrews, showed it was possible to retain the principle historic building – the former workhouse – and provided a significant number of new residential units – and more than those listed on the current proposals.”

Steve added that planning policy and guidelines on how to deal with buildings that are heritage assets have not significantly changed since the plans submitted in 2008 were refused, so the same stance should be taken now by the planning officers and planning committee.

“The Victorian Society and Lancashire Archaeological Advisory Services on the two previous occasions that they were consulted recommended any application to demolish the workhouse be refused.”

LAAS has objected to the proposal to demolish once again and The Victorian Society is also expected to maintain their previous attitude to the proposal.

Clitheroe Union Workhouse was built between 1870 and 1873 to designs by Jonas J. Bradshaw, of the Bolton architectural practice of Bradshaw, Gass and Hope, and Leigh Hall, another Bolton architect. The builder was Robert Satherthwaite, of Clitheroe. Following complaints about existing workhouse provisions at Aighton and Bolton-by-Bowland the new workhouse was built to house 200 people, with a separate 36 bed hospital block. This was completed in December 1874 and continued to operate as a workhouse until 1930 when both buildings became the Coplow View Public Assistance Infirmary.

To support Clitheroe Civic Society’s opposition to the plans sign its petition at: