Demolition of two Doncaster landmarks could start as soon as November – sparking fears of ‘damaging’ gaps in the town centre.
Doncaster Council’s cabinet meets next week to discuss proposals to borrow £1.5 million to speed up the removal of Council House, Doncaster Civic Theatre and Scarborough House.
The plans would also see the partial demolition of the former Doncaster High School for Girls, leaving just the frontage.
Officials are keen to demolish the buildings quickly, to avoid them falling victim to vandals and to spare security and maintenance costs.
All four buildings are due to be removed under the Civic and Cultural Quarter Development, which has seen a new council base and a theatre built at Waterdale.
However, the proposals to start demolition before any redevelopment has sparked concern.
John Holmes, Doncaster Civic Trust chairman, said: “I’m concerned Doncaster will be left with a lot of empty spaces in the town centre for a long period.
“I can understand the need to get rid of buildings, but we want to see them replaced.
“I do feel its a shame we are to lose the Civic Theatre, as there have been amateur groups screaming they want to use it.
“Shops are closing all the time and if we’re not careful, the town centre is not gong to look as good as it could. It is damaging to a town centre to have too many gaps.”
The former girls’ high school building was proposed to be transformed into a boutique hotel under the Civic and Cultural Quarter scheme, but no details of any approaches from any operators have ever been made public.
A council report to go before members on Wednesday says: “Due to the current economic climate, the pace of the remaining development stages has slowed considerably and it is unlikely demolition of the buildings will take place in the next few years.
“Should the buildings remain as they are, the council will be left having to fund holding costs and expenses such as security, utilities, maintenance, vandalism and business rates for non-operational buildings.
“In view of the financial situation and current economic pressures upon budgets, it is more beneficial for the council to demolish the buildings early.”
Council officials estimate knocking the buildings down now will save £631,000 over the next three years.
The cost of demolishing the high rise Council House is estimated by officers at about £750,000.
Coun Bob Johnson, cabinet member for regeneration and growth, said: “Demolishing the empty buildings is another necessary step in our exciting goal to redevelop Waterdale with the Civic and Cultural Quarter project and bring much needed investment into the town.
“Not only do old and unused buildings cost the council – and therefore taxpayers – money for upkeep and business rates, they can also start to look like an eyesore and attract the risk of vandalism. Areas where demolitions have taken place will be grassed and actually improve the look of the town until the redevelopment takes place.
“We have already shown the brilliant effect investment can have on the town with the opening of the wonderful Cast building which is putting Doncaster on the map and we hope to do the same with future developments.”