Rawtenstall town centre is being transformed with the demolition of the former police station and the restoration of the town hall well under way, and plans in place for potential hotel, leisure, and retail projects in the future. Place North West paid a visit with contractor Barnfield and Rossendale Council to see how the project was progressing.
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The regeneration of the town centre is a wide-ranging project due to be delivered across several phases, with the first focussing on the demolition of the old police station, and the refurbishment of the 7,300 sq ft town hall.
The police station has already been demolished and work is now well under way to upgrade the town hall into office space for housing association Together Housing. The building has been largely empty for the last 10 years, and the most recent tenant was the council’s ‘one-stop-shop’ which was present in a modern annexe until May 2013.
Building 1876, the town hall was extended a number of times in the late 19th and early 20th century, but since becoming vacant it has been damaged and vandalised, and demolition was even considered as one of the options for the building.
However, both Historic England and the Victorian Society objected to the plans and the council agreed to keep the building to be used as office space.
Nicola Hopkins, planning manager at Rossendale Borough Council said: “At one point everything was due to go and the bus station was going to be closer to the road, but Historic England objected to that original planning application.
“Although the building isn’t listed, it’s a non-designated heritage asset in a conservation area, and they only withdrew their objection once we agreed to retain the town hall.”
Retaining the building created a number of challenges for contractor Barnfield. Site manager David Bailey said the original building “was essentially put together by Victorian cowboy builders”, with the extensions “basically a mash-up of what materials they had to hand at the time.”
The building was in a “shocking” condition, he said, meaning the contractor was unable to save a number of original features including the windows, which have all since been replaced.
“That’s actually worked out better; installing larger windows has made the building much brighter,” he said.
But on the inside, many original features have been kept in-situ but have been kept out of view, giving the option to fully restore the building in future. Others, like the original staircase, have been restored and kept in place.
One of the elevations is set to feature a glazed entrance, but this side of the building has proved be the most challenging, given the original builders’ approach.
“There was an element of steelwork that had been put in that was projecting out of the gable of the building,” said Barnfield contracts manager Steve Riley.
“Until we demolished the extension, we couldn’t get a line on exactly where the steel stood; the engineers had been in but even looking at both sides of the wall we couldn’t piece everything together.
“So now we’ve got a building that’s essentially finished inside, there’s still a gaping hole in the side.”
The “cathedral-style” window forms the centrepiece of Day Architecture’s designs for the town hall, but the restored building is just the first phase of the wider regeneration of the town.
The next part of the project will include a new bus station to replace Rawtenstall’s current station, which was built in the 1970s opposite the town hall on Bacup Road, and was originally intended to be temporary.
The new bus station has been backed by £1.9m from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership’s Growth Fund alongside £3.5m from Lancashire County Council, and will be delivered on land behind the town hall.
Later phases are set to focus on leisure and a possible hotel, and these will be brought forward once the town hall completes, while the former bus station will be demolished.
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