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'Help us save old school from demolition crews'

Campaigners vow to fight on over Whitcliffe Mount School

Whitcliffe Mount School, Cleckheaton

Campaigners battling to prevent the old Whitcliffe Mount School at Cleckheaton from being pulled down have vowed to fight on despite learning that the site could be handed over to demolition crews as early as this week.

In just 14 days members of the Whitcliffe Mount Petitioning Group (WMPG) gathered signatures from more than 3,000 people calling for the iconic Foundation Building on Turnsteads Lane in Cleckheaton to be saved. The land is earmarked for housing.

After presenting the petition to Kirklees Council they were told that the fate of the school – and the extent of local feeling – would be debated at a meeting of the full council in Huddersfield Town Hall on September 13.

However they have now been informed by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), which funded the new multi-million pound school that will replace the 107-year-old Foundation Building, that the handover to contractor Laing O’Rourke will actually take place on Friday, August 25.

It is unclear whether demolition work will begin straight away.

Whitcliffe Mount School in 1912

However WMPG members Paul Graves and Julie Mitchell are still clinging to the hope that the building can escape the wrecking ball.

They claim to have contacted four external developers who have all expressed an interest in buying the site and converting the Foundation Building into apartments.

Mr Graves urged Kirklees Council to “act morally” to retain the building by negotiating with developers “as soon as possible”, adding: “From August 25 the contract is non-negotiable. Therefore we urge the council to immediately accept the building by instantly amending contracts as opposed to its insistence that the land is ‘unfettered by buildings’ – in other words, demolished.”

Kirklees Council leader David Sheard said due to accepting the petition the council was obliged to discuss the future of the Foundation Building but that it would not make a difference to what happens on the site.

“The contract [to demolish] was never with us. It is with the trustees of the school. The council does not own the building. It never has,” he said.

“There is an extra complication in that it is an education building and if it was to be used for any other purpose they have to get the permission of the Secretary of State.

“The trustees cannot take a risk [on retaining the Foundation Building for development] and then end up with a building that will cost them £500,000 to pull down. The council cannot put any money up because we have not got it.”

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