Harrogate council conservation officer ‘cannot support’ Debenhams demolition
Last updated Mar 16, 2022

Harrogate Borough Council‘s conservation officer has objected to the demolition of the former Debenhams building on Parliament Street.

Wetherby-based property company Stirling Prescient is behind a proposal to demolish the three buildings that Debenhams was situated in and replace them with 50 flats and two commercial units.

The site on Parliament Street has been home to different retailers for over a century. Before Debenhams, it housed the Buckley’s and Busby’s stores.

But the developer has said there is no market for the building to be reoccupied as a department store, and the 1902 and 1920-era buildings should be torn down.

‘Harmful to the streetscene’

The council’s objection was submitted last month by Emma Gibbens, principal conservation officer.

Ms Gibbens wrote:

“The loss of the traditional building form and architectural detail would be harmful to the streetscene and character and special interest of the conservation area, the building forming part of the designated heritage asset in a manner that contributes positively to its character.”

Ms Gibbens added that the developer needed to prove that the demolition was justified.

She wrote that redevelopment of the site was possible in a way that did not involve the demolition of historic buildings.

She added:

“If demolition can be proven to be required, then a revised scheme would be required for a replacement building; otherwise, the historic buildings should be retained and the later parts replaced with buildings that enhance the conservation area.”

The council’s planning committee will decide on the proposal but the objection by a senior council official is a blow to the developers.

Read more:

The council joins two influential heritage groups in submitting objections to the plans.

In January, Save Britain’s Heritage said the developer had failed to provide “clear or adequate justification” for demolishing the buildings.

The public body Historic England has also submitted an objection to the plans. Whilst welcoming the regeneration of the site, it said there should be a “sensitive conversion” of the two older department store buildings.

But the demolition has been supported by Harrogate Civic Society, which said it accepted the building was “very difficult to convert in a logical and practical way”.

However, the group objected to the height of the replacement building, which it said was “overpowering.”

Strengthen the town

A view of the new apartments on Parliament Street.

A CGI view of the new apartments on Parliament Street.

The developer Stirling Prescient said in planning documents that there was no scope to convert the building into smaller units “due to its internal layout and the age of the building”.

Stirling Prescient said:

“The proposals as a whole will strengthen the town’s vitality and viability, increasing footfall and contributing to the local economy.

“The proposal represents a sustainable form of development and therefore benefits from the presumption in favour of sustainable development, meaning planning permission should be granted without delay.”