Building a Future from Doncaster’s Former Glory

The Yorkshire Party's candidate in the 2017 Doncaster Mayor election, Chris Whitwood, welcomes the news that Doncaster's old Girls School is to be given a new lease of life.

Chris Whitwood

Two months ago, Yorkshire Party supporters were actively campaigning across Doncaster in the run up to the Doncaster Mayoral elections.  As the Yorkshire Party’s candidate, I had spent the previous months working with local residents to develop a five point plan to end the neglect that has blighted our town for decades and build a brighter future for Doncaster.

Central to this vision was a pledge to protect our town’s historic buildings. Once, Doncaster was a prosperous market town - a powerhouse of the nation. However, throughout the campaign I spoke to hundreds of residents who feel Doncaster's historic buildings are being allowed to crumble.

No building is more symbolic of this neglect than the old Girls School. The red brick facade and copper-green domes are more than a piece of Doncaster’s architectural heritage. They are a part of our town’s rich cultural identity.

I was, therefore, delighted to read that DMBC have announced a plan to save what remains of the old Girls School, incorporating it into a new library, museum and archives. This is, of course, the culmination a long campaigns fought collectively by many local voluntary and community groups.

Nevertheless, when it comes to saving our architectural and cultural heritage this is merely a starting point. Had Doncaster's complicit Labour council acted a decade ago it might have been possible to save a meaningful portion of the building. Instead, the facade seems set to become little more that an oversized museum exhibit encased in glass and, based on the artists impression, seems set to lose the iconic green domes - a further act of architectural vandalism by the council.

Though one should avoid becoming dogmatic - demanding preservation purely for the sake of avoiding change - often, with investment, creativity and courage these historic structures can be given a new lease of life - an architectural renaissance - making them more than simply fit for purpose. We can ensure they are symbols of the past that serve the needs of the future.

That is why the Yorkshire Party in Doncaster will continue to campaign for improved planning guidelines to encourage developers to restore rather than demolish buildings of historic importance, as well as demanding fair investment for Yorkshire’s cities, towns and villages.

One does not have to look far to see evidence of Doncaster’s former glory. By ensuring new investment goes hand-in-hand with a celebration of the past we can make Doncaster great again. To achieve this, we must restore what we have, revive what we have lost and celebrate our past to invest in our future.

Note: Published in the Yorkshire Post - "Building a Future from Town’s Former Glory'' on Friday 30th June 2017.

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