Reutilise these two historic buildings

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Conservation Group.

Regarding the debate over the Netto application and the condition of the two buildings earmarked for demolition, I would like to point out that since 1990 local councils have had it in their power to issue a Section 215.

This is a notice which requires owners of derelict buildings that are having an adverse effect on the surrounding area to undertake remedial action to improve their appearance. Moreover, a Section 219 notice allows the council to undertake the work themselves and recover the costs from the landowner, so why hasn’t this been done?

To sit on one’s hands and then pray for a developer to come along armed with a wrecking ball is a bit rich.

It really is a blessing that English Heritage think differently to the council otherwise the likes of Todmorden Town Hall, with its crumbling stonework and leaking roof would have been pulled down long ago in favour of a concrete structure despite its Grade I Listed status.

The Olympia is a fine example of a historic cinema with an Egyptian style façade that is a rarity in worldwide terms and has significant architectural interest, whereas the Abraham Ormerod building was originally a child welfare and maternity clinic, donated to the people of Todmorden, which has spent the last decade abandoned.

If anyone thinks this is misplaced sentimentality, it’s worth noting that these two buildings have been critically acclaimed by such authoritative and informed bodies as the Ancient Monuments Society, Save Britain’s Heritage, the Twentieth Century Society and the Cinema Theatre Association, and whatever the local council might think, they are in fact quite rare examples.

The current Netto application intends to demolish the Ormerod building and use some of the stone in order to build a supermarket that mimics the past. In other words, let’s knock down two old buildings and construct a new one which looks like an old one. Not without good reason this style of architecture is known as “Pastiche”.

Someone in authority, preferably Calderdale Council’s planning department, should tell potential investors that Todmorden is very fortunate to have a Conservation Area, and whilst this does not mean that you cannot develop within our town, it does mean that you have to abide by planning laws designed to protect heritage assets.

This means using natural materials, reutilising existing buildings wherever possible, and ensuring your development does not impact on surrounding areas such as the listed Victorian viaduct. The Netto proposal could and should be redrawn to incorporate a design which would not require demolition of the Abraham Ormerod building and one that retains the façade of the Olympia.

This would require the developers to use more imagination than has been shown already and of course more money. The latter is probably the reason we have what’s on offer.