Doncaster Voices: How best can we save our historic buildings?
Welcome to Doncaster Voices, your weekly debate. If you want to get involved submit 150 words with name, title and photo to email@example.com. Your views could appear here next week, when subject is: 'How can we address the Doncaster skills gap?'
Archie Sinclair, Honorary Secretary, Doncaster Civic Trust
Many local people seem to think just turning the clock back, shutting your eyes and recalling the good old days, will do the trick. Sadly those days are gone. In recent years we have seen a stream of changes, so-called “improvements”, which have unintentionally contributed to decline of town centres where many historic buildings are found. If a listed building has no use, it should be sold to someone who can use it. Planners need to be positive and flexible in decisions on new uses. At Nether Hall, offices are becoming apartments. But, at 15 South Parade, the new owner failed to proceed with approved scheme for flats, and the building deteriorates. St James’ Baths is a much more difficult problem where the form of the building is not readily adaptable. A solution for its future in public use is unlikely to be feasible without financial support.
We recognise the value of maintaining heritage buildings and working with owners of Doncaster’s historic buildings to keep them in use where possible but we have simply not been able to afford significant maintenance costs to keep some older buildings in pristine condition.
What we can do is make sure significant and historic local buildings are protected when new development plans are created, which is exactly what we have done with the old Girl’s School building on Chequer Road and Doncaster Museum.
The new development of a combined museum and library on Chequer Road will beautifully incorporate the historic frontage of the Girl’s School, preserving it for future generations and making it part of a real community asset again, restored in a new iconic venue for learning in Doncaster.
The existing Doncaster Museum building, with its famous and unique architecture, will also be retained as a place for in-depth family history research and a hub for small business development.
Paul Fitzpatrick, Doncaster resident
Doncaster has significant modernist buildings from the 1930s. It is noteworthy Asmara, capital of Eritrea, was recently awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO for modernist architecture, dating from Italian colonialism in 1930s, demonstrating degree of international recognition. While Doncaster does not possess the same variety or quantity of such buildings, Danum House on St Sepulchregate – finest example in town – is listed among Wikipedia’s catalogue of notable examples of ‘streamline moderne’ buildings, achieving a place among an impressive international cast. The modernist dream took streamlined form of an ocean liner, designed by the local architectural practice T H Johnson & Son, along with façade of Nag’s Head and former Woolworth’s on Baxtergate (now House of Fraser).
Mel Hewitt, Doncaster writer
Since the 12th century Doncaster has steadily grown in stature and wealth, marked by creation of beautiful churches, civic buildings and fine homes.
Even before oft-heralded ‘progress’ that blighted many towns’ planning in 1960s and ’70s, these jewels that shaped the character of our urban landscape were disappearing.
To save, treasure and actively promote what we have left, the leaders and voices of business and enterprise today need to support the heart of what made the town great in the past. Real investment, sponsorship and adoption of these irreplaceable treasures is needed from the shapers of the future.
Modern developers need to walk forward hand in hand with our heritage. Otherwise all we will be left with is glazed aluminium cathedrals of commerce on the outskirts of town.
Prosperity and pride follow when we protect the heritage that defines us.
Margaret Herbert, Doncaster resident
I have been brought up in Doncaster with families well known in business circles in the town. I look with horror at what we have lost. We all need to prevent this ever happening again. We need to see better co-operation on planning matters between the Council and the Press, so that objections can be made within a specified times and Listing Orders applied for, if necessary with the help of the Civic Trust who keep close observation on Planning. Finally full use by the Public and various Organisations, of buildings such as The Mansion House and The Corn Exchange, (under renovation) I would like to see the removal of the Mezzanine Floor and the Platform rebuilt in the building with Toilet and Changing facilities so that it house Band Concerts, Wrestling and Boxing, School Choir Concerts etc., as it used to. On those occasions the 2 hour limit removed from the Car Park.