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Ancoats Dispensary saved

Submitted by on July 18, 2013 – 10:27 amNo Comment
Ardwick & Ancoats Dispensary

Ardwick & Ancoats Dispensary

The application to demolish the historic Ancoats Dispensary has been withdrawn by the owner Urban Splash.

The Grade II-listed building has been the focus of an intense campaign of local people, led by the Save Ancoats Dispensary Group, to resist demolition. An application to knock it down had been brought before Manchester City Council’s Planning Committee but this has now been withdrawn.

Campaigners will now seek funding to transform the Dispensary – a once-glorious neo-Gothic building painted by Lowry, and the home of modern orthopaedic surgery in Britain – into a community space and creative hub for local artists.

Tom Bloxham of Urban Splash who bought the building in 2001 said he was now putting his support behind the Group’s campaign to save the building.

“Over the past six months we have been working closely with architect Alex Finlason of Pickard Finlason Partnership and representatives of the Save Ancoats Dispensary Group to explore whether, collectively, there is potential to make one final attempt to save the Ancoats Dispensary building from demolition, “ said Mr Bloxham.

“The new Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Heritage Enterprise Scheme’ would appear to provide a fresh opportunity to secure funding to bring the listed building back into use and whilst we recognise that getting this funding is not certain and there will be a great deal of competition for this new funding stream nationally, we are optimistic that – with the hard work that is being undertaken by the Group and the support that the building generates locally – the funding application will be successful.

“In the light of the forthcoming application to the HLF, Urban Splash has therefore recently withdrawn listed building application (ref – 096729/LL/2011/N2) to demolish Ancoats Dispensary to provide this new initiative with sufficient time to develop into a credible and viable plan.

“Unfortunately, given the extensive consideration that has already been given to other viable uses and funding sources, if this new initiative were to fail, there seems little prospect of any viable use coming forward and reluctantly the demolition application would have to be re-submitted. We very much hope this is not the case and Urban Splash is lending every support to the Group. Nothing would give us more pleasure than to save this important building.”

Linda Whillans- Carver, campaign co-ordinator of Save Ancoats Dispensary Group, said she was delighted by the news.

“This news comes at just the right moment as we are preparing to submit an application for funding to the Heritage Lottery Fund. After 2 years of campaigning this is music to our ears. It is a reward for all the hard work carried out by a group of local people, supported by others from as far away as the U.S.A. who have never lost sight of a vision.”

“Following a massive public consultation when the community were asked about what their vision would be if the Dispensary was saved and hopefully restored, they gave their answer. A space for the Community where training opportunities and creative work could be carried out.

“A cafe wherethe local community could meet, a room where training events, heritage days and social events could take place. A place where there will be opportunities for both young and not so young to become volunteers. A centrepiece within an architectural gem.

“The Dispensary has become a symbol representing the community of Ancoats as well as neighbouring districts of Manchester and sends a message to the whole world that with passion, persistence and the right support anything is possible. We now work towards
ensuring that this wonderful building becomes once again a working building, taking its rightful place as the beating heart of this area.”

The Group plan to submit their bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund in early August.

Alex Finlason, of Pickard Finlason Partnership, is the specialist conservation architect who is the lead consultant to the Save Ancoats Dispensary Group. He said: “Once the centre-piece of the ambitious plans for New Islington, Ancoats Dispensary became a casualty of the property market crash.

“Following the failure of a grant in the final days of the Labour Government it rapidly fell into decay. But the passion of local people towards the building grew and gave rise in July 2012 to a vigil. The personal sacrifice and commitment of local people spanned last winter and continues today, almost 12-months later.

“BBC News North West Tonight stated on the 17th April 2013 that ‘time was up’ for the Dispensary; consent had been granted for demolition. The long fight of the community to save their building had seemingly failed.

“Not so! Our team had been working on proposals since November 2012 and this simply motivated us to work harder on a ‘thirteenth-hour’ solution. At the planning meeting on the 18th April, I appealed to the committee and they granted a month’s reprieve for us to demonstrate the emerging plans had credibility and the potential to attract funding.

“We did just that. Following intense efforts and close collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders – including the owners Urban Splash, Manchester City Council, English Heritage and the Homes and Community Agency – agreement in principle has been reached to support our plans to restore the now almost derelict listed-building

“As a consequence the listed building consent to demolish the Dispensary has now been withdrawn. Our proposals to bring back the building into an effective and productive new use have been developed and a viability study concluded. A bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund under the innovative ‘Heritage Enterprise’ grant programme, announced this June, is planned for submission next month. The Group and the team with them have put in an immense amount of work, with public consultations, local needs assessments, and liaison and in developing our plans. We have everything firmly crossed that our support continues.

“The plans include a wide range of community activities centred on developing skills, learning and the interpretation of the heritage of the area and the building. Space on the upper floors, developed with AWOL, a local business partner, provides a range of flexible small ‘studios’ for creative local businesses. The idea to create an active and engaging building within the fabric of the listed building will bring fresh life to the heart of the community, boosting the local economy and making it a better place to visit and work.”

How the renovated building could look

How the renovated building could look

Henry Owen-John, North West Planning Director of English Heritage said “Ancoats Dispensary is a Grade II listed historic building, which reflects some of the key social changes and developments of the last 150 years. English Heritage has been hugely impressed with the work done by the Save Ancoats Dispensary group to develop a proposal that has the potential to save the building and put it back at the heart of the local community.

“It is this work that has enabled Urban Splash to withdraw the application to demolish the Dispensary, a decision which we applaud, and which is characteristic of a company that has done so much to save historic buildings at risk by introducing innovative new uses. There will be real challenges in developing a scheme that is financially viable and sustainable in the long term, and English Heritage will continue to provide expert advice and support to assist in this endeavour.”

The news that the demolition threat had been withdrawn was warmly welcomed by John Pickstone, Emeritus professor of History of Medicine at the University of Manchester.

“It is great news that the Ancoats Dispensary may be saved. From 1820, the Ancoats Dispensary provided medical care for a classic industrial district; the writings of its doctors were key sources for social commentators, including Engels. From the 1870s the Hospital was famous for its work on industrial injuries. Alfred Barclay, one of the pioneers of X ray diagnosis worked there, and after the 1914-18 war Harry Platt established Britain’s first specialist fracture clinic.

“The Dispensary has been central to Ancoats for almost two centuries. The preservation of its building may also commemorate the other remarkable institutions which once thrived in this district. Its use by the community will carry forward their great work.”
Angela Brady, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects also welcomed the news. “I am absolutely delighted that Ancoats Dispensary has been saved from demolition. This is a major milestone of success for the campaigners who have held a protective community vigil for 344 days to date, which I fully back as President of RIBA.

“The removal of this immediate threat to the building by Urban Splash formally withdrawing the demolition order, opens the way for the community to further develop their ideas for bringing back into use, this well loved building which is at the heart of Ancoats history, culture and identity. It anchors the local community in their memory of time and place.

“When I visited the campaign group on a cold, wet winters day, and heard and saw their passion for this much loved listed building, I vowed to help them in whatever way I could, by inspiring architect Alex Finlason to be their champion within the local community. There is so much goodwill now for this campaign that it promises to deliver a community based project they will be proud of, and save a listed Grade II building that will compliment the history and memories of Ancoats community for a long time to come.”

James Hughes, conservation adviser to the Victorian Society said the Society had included the Ancoats Dispensary on its 2011 list of the nation’s Top Ten Endangered Victorian and Edwardian Buildings.

“It is now in a shocking state of disrepair,” he said. “The withdrawal of the application for demolition is excellent news. This welcome reprieve does not in itself ensure that the building will ultimately survive, but it is an essential first step. We hope we will soon see this important building and significant fragment of Manchester’s history restored.”

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