HERITAGE groups have expressed horror that a Grade II listed building hit by fire eight years ago is to be torn down.
Bradford Council has granted outline planning permission for the derelict 19th century former St Andrew’s School in Listerhills Road to be demolished and replaced by up to eight homes, after hearing its repair would be unviable.
But conservation groups say the structure could have been saved and claim it sends a dangerous message that listed buildings can be razed if they get into a dilapidated state.
Matthew Saunders, secretary of the Ancient Monuments Society, said: “That’s not how the system should operate. Bradford, which I know well, is a great city and its historic character is from the use of millstone grit.”
He said the building was a particularly fine Victorian structure, adding: “The carved Gothic detailing is very full of character.
“Bradford has got some fabulous buildings. It can’t afford to lose buildings of this quality, it really can’t.
“So I hope even now it will change owners to somebody who feels able to deal with the challenge of its conservation and repair.”
The building was last used as a council-owned Interfaith Education Centre, but was vacated after suffering extensive fire damage in 2009.
Two years later, Bradford Council sold the building at auction to Guiseley-based Tim Horton Ltd,which last year applied to tear it down.
Their application said: “Following the fire, rather than repairing the Grade II listed building using insurance monies, as might have been expected, Bradford Council disposed of the building via auction in 2011.
“The property was purchased at the auction by the applicant who did not fully appreciate the scale of the challenge they were taking on at the time.”
The owners had shown planners a quote they had received for the repair of the building, costed at more than £1.5m, which they said was far more than it would be worth once finished.
They had tried and failed to sell it as a renovation project.
Earlier this year, Bradford Planning Panel granted listed building consent for the building to be demolished, but it also had to go before local government secretary Sajid Javid, who has now decided not to intervene in the matter.
A condition of the consent was that the building’s features were photographed and recorded by archivists.
Separately, planners last week granted outline permission for the new homes.
Planning agent for the scheme, William Cartwright, said without grant funding there was no viable way of bringing the building back into use.
He said: “From my point of view, it’s a sad and sorry state of affairs.”
He said he understood the owner intended to pull down the building shortly and the West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service had already recorded the site’s historic features.
He added: “If Bradford had a really strong and active preservation trust, it might just have been possible to save it, but that type of organisation does not exist in Bradford, unfortunately.”
Public heritage body Historic England had lodged official objections to the demolition plan.
Elisabeth Lewis, its inspector of historic buildings and areas, said yesterday: “We are saddened that the grade II listed former Interfaith Education Centre on Listerhills Road is set to be demolished.
“We advised that despite fire damage, enough historic fabric remained for demolition not to be necessary.”
The Victorian Society had also objected. Richard Tinker, a caseworker for Leeds and Bradford, said: “It’s just another of Bradford’s listed buildings. It’s chip, chip, chipping away at the city as people will know it.”
But Alan Hall, chairman of Bradford Civic Society, said he supported the building’s demolition.
He said he and his wife had recently passed the building and discussed the state of it.
He said: “She said it’s about time we pulled that down, and I was forced to agree.
“Listed or not, it just needs to go. Nobody is going to be able to repair it.
“It wasn’t a marvellous building, even when it was in use.”
Bradford Council did not respond to requests for a comment on its decision not to repair the building at the time of the fire.