Apartments ‘only viable solution’ for former Otley Civic Centre
AN iconic Otley building is ‘riddled with dry rot’ and in danger of collapse unless it is converted it into apartments, a planning application warns.
In June 2022 Leeds City Council turned down an application to convert the former Otley Civic Centre into 35 apartments saying: “The proposed development would have a negative impact on the listed building by way of the intensive and insensitive subdivision being proposed.”
Now Otley Civic Centre Limited has submitted a fresh application to convert the listed building on Cross Green into 28 apartments – an optimal number to allow for profit against the cost of refurbishment, they say.
A report prepared by C49 Architecture to support the application says: “It is at a stage where the council, councillors and the local community should support the proposal of this development to allow this conversion to save an iconic building within Otley from collapse, a stage of repair that is irreversible and what is currently an eyesore on a historic market town.”
The application says the proposed apartments will be of a high quality and the external appearance of the building will not be modified.
The current owners bought the Civic Centre at auction for £600,000 in 2020 from Leeds City Council on the understanding a residential scheme would be supported.
However, they now accuse the council of allowing the building to rot over 15 years.
The architect’s design and heritage statement says: “The reports in this application could not be any further condemning of this building and cannot reiterate the immediate intervention needed before a collapse is possible.
“The building has been subject to political ping pong over its use and we believe this has had an affect on the current proposals.
“This has resulted in a building just left in such a poor condition and sold with it riddled with dry rot.”
It adds: “The lack of funding from the council on this building, lack of support and the lack of a positive approach and use of this building has resulted in this building been left to physically rot, become pigeon infested and now resulting in an unsafe building.
“Leeds Council have done so many schemes whilst under its tenure to redevelop this building back into a public use and these documents are open to the public and it shows that this building is not viable to be used as a public building requiring £2million investment over 10 years ago, this cost has now through inflation easily added a further £1million onto.
“If this building is to be used the only viable solution is apartments with a developer like the owner that is committed to develop this scheme.”
The centre has played an important role in the life of the town since it was commissioned by members of the local mechanics institute and officially opened in 1871. A century later it became the base for Otley Town Council and the town’s museum, but it has stood empty since 2010.
To view the full planning application and comment visit Leeds Planning Portal online – reference number 22/08096/FU.