Heritage groups say ‘no justification’ for Harrogate Debenhams demolition
Last updated Jan 18, 2022
Debenhams on Parliament Street, Harrogate

Two influential national heritage groups have issued strong objections to plans to demolish the former Debenhams building on Parliament Street in Harrogate.

Wetherby-based property company Stirling Prescient is behind a proposal to demolish three buildings and replace them with 50 high-end apartments along with two commercial units.

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

But in documents submitted to the council, the developer said the buildings need to be demolished as their size means they are no longer viable for retail.

‘Historic and architectural value’

Campaign group and charity Save Britain’s Heritage submitted an objection to the plans this week, saying the developer had failed to provide “clear or adequate justification” for demolishing the 1902 and 1920 era buildings.

Another building next to Westminster Arcade that was added in the 1960s is also set for demolition.

The group says the two older buildings have “considerable historic and architectural value” and “add greatly” to the character and significance of Parliament Street.

It adds:

“No evidence or analysis has been provided to show unequivocally why the buildings cannot be retained and refurbished. Demolition is an extreme response to development in such a historic context, and therefore sets a commensurately high threshold for justification.”

Busby’s on Parliament Street. Copyright: Walker-Neesam Archive.

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In December, the public body Historic England 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.

It said:

“We have particular concerns over the proposed demolition of the early 20th century buildings on the corner of Oxford Street and Parliament Street contributing positively to the appearance and character of the conservation area, for which there is no clear and convincing justification.”

A view of the new apartments on Parliament Street.

A CGI view of the new apartments on Parliament Street.

Stirling Prescient said in planning documents:

“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.”