Sekhon Group responds amid fears for Otley Civic Centre building
OTLEY Town Councillor Nigel Francis is calling for immediate action to be taken over the former Otley Civic Centre which he says appears to be in danger of collapse.
The historic building is part-owned with others by Simmy Sekhon, CEO of the Bradford based Sekhon Group.
The property empire chief confirmed earlier this week that he was not aware of any dangerous structures hanging from the building, but would send someone out immediately.
Cllr Francis said: “Over the past few months, I have carefully monitored the state of the Civic Centre and can now report that it appears that it is only a matter of time before a large part of the building collapses.
“I have brought the matter to the public’s attention before and also to the City Council yet no-one seems to care. The time for immediate action is now. I don’t care if the MP or the Leeds City Council, or for that matter the Town Councillors get involved, but if action is not taken and anyone is killed or injured them it will rest on all their heads.
“As a Councillor, you have a responsibility to act to protect the public, yet no one has shown any interest in the state of this building. I sent in a report months ago and the City Council did nothing. On 27th December 2022, more masonry had fallen from around the roof area in Garnett Street. Now the area above where the masonry fell from has a large crack, and the stonework appears to be leaning forward in a very dangerous state.
“My concern is that if in the next couple of weeks, the weather deteriorates, and we have severe frosts, then the water trapped within the walls will expand and could easy cause a large part of the building to give way and the stacks on the roof, along with the wall could collapse and kill or injure many people.”
The Civic Centre was sold at auction for £600,000 in 2020. Leeds City Council had put the Grade II Listed property on the market as part of its efforts to plug a multi-million pound budget deficit.
The centre has played an important role in the life of the town since it officially opened in 1871, but it has stood empty since 2010.
In June last year Leeds City Council refused planning permission for the former civic centre to be converted into 35 apartments.
Mr Sekhon said: “Clearly this is a matter of concern to us which has only come to our attention now.
“If we had a constructive dialogue with the planners and obtained a successful planning permission from our first application then perhaps we may not have been in this situation, as works would have already started on site thus safeguarding the building now and for the foreseeable future.”
A spokesperson for Leeds City Council said: “As a privately-owned building, the maintenance and upkeep of the former Otley Civic Centre building is the responsibility of the new owner. The Council does have enforcement powers which it can use subject to the detailed circumstances.
“Whilst we consider this, due to the potential risk of stonework being dislodged from a high level, half of the Garnett Steet carriageway will be closed to prevent any possible danger from falling debris.”
“This is a temporary measure pending a further inspection and discussions with the owner.”