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Contentious plans for Modernist gem in Huddersfield are approved

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Kirklees Council has backed controversial plans by 1618 Architects for a four-storey upward extension to Huddersfield’s Modernist Co-op building

The proposal, for SKA Developments, was opposed by the Twentieth Century Society and prompted Historic England to write to the authority about its ’considerable concern’ over the scale of the rooftop addition. 

Planning officers said that that the scheme, which will create 135 student bedrooms in 75 apartments, would help bring the long-abandoned 1930s building back into use and help increase housing supply.

An officers’ report that went before the authority’s strategic planning committee said: ‘The less-than-substantial harm to the heritage assets identified is considered to be outweighed by the public benefits.’

However, the Twentieth Century Society bemoaned the decision, saying: ‘We fully support the intention to bring new life to a historic building that has long stood empty in the city centre, but this is a poor-quality scheme and this building deserves better.’

This is a poor-quality scheme and this building deserves better

Despite some changes to the scheme to try to meet Historic England’s apprehensions, the heritage body told the council that it still had ‘concerns regarding the application on heritage grounds’.

The former Co-op was designed in 1936 by the organisation’s in-house architects W A Johnson and J W Cropper. 

In 2006, Ssharc Architects submitted proposals to demolish the building, which had been turned down for listing the previous year, and replace it with a nine-storey new-build student accommodation block.

The move prompted opposition from local conservation campaign group Huddersfield Gem. Architect Adrian Evans, a member of the group, called the Co-op building ‘the first and best example of a truly modern building in Huddersfield’.

Huddersfield coop c20 society

Huddersfield coop c20 society

Source: Twentieth Century Society

In its appraisal of the building, the Twentieth Century Society says it ‘is faced in local stone and it shows influences of avant-garde European buildings of the time, namely those of Erich Mendelsohn and Dutch architecture of the era’.

SKA Developments director Zeb Pervaiz welcomed the council’s decision, saying: ‘For too long this key site in Huddersfield Town Centre has stood vacant, so it gives me real pride that today we have taken a major step towards bringing the building back into beneficial use.

‘Over the previous months we’ve worked very closely with Kirklees Council to develop a viable but eye-catching scheme, and I’m thrilled that our approach of working closely with the council has led to today’s decision.’

1618 Architects, which has offices in Whitechapel and Cheshire, was contacted for comment.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • So the dodge for dodging land and substructure costs by imposing nondescript (or worse) new stuff on top of long suffering architecture of some character has escaped its London hatchery and is now threatening our provincial cities?
    Sad - and there's surely an analogy here with the laissez-faire attitude to the tax dodges that have done so much to enable online retail giants to slash-and-burn their way through town centres at an accelerating rate.

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