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Group fights to keep rectory

06 October 2011

by a staff reporter

A NATIONAL heritage group is fighting plans to demolish a listed Victorian rectory in Stockport in order to make way for a new school. The Chester Diocesan Board of Education has lodged an application to demolish St George’s Rectory (below, right), a Grade II listed build­ing designed by Hubert Austin and Edward Paley between 1892 and 1905.

The vicarage, which has been empty for ten years, is part of a group of buildings that Austin and Paley worked on, which includes the Grade I listed St George’s and St George’s C of E Primary School. They are within a conservation area.

The Diocesan Board of Education, which owns the vicarage, wants to demolish it to make way for new buildings on the St George’s School site. The planning consultants Turley Associates, in their heritage sub­mission to Stockport Borough Council on behalf of the diocese, say that trying to convert the vicarage to educational use would cost at least £1.6 million. The proposals include selling off the existing school, turning one part into flats and another into a nursery and parish facility.

The diocesan director of educa­tion, Jeff Turnbull, said that the land “was the only space on which a much-needed new school could be built. The old vicarage really is not suitable for conversion into a school. We have tried to maintain the building, but planning restrictions prevented us from taking the appropriate action at an early stage to protect the structure from vandals. Now that we have, after a long delay, got the necessary permission from the local authority, we have bricked up the building — which is what we wanted to do originally.”

But the Victorian Society, which, alongside some local residents, is opposing the plans, argues that the demolition is “needlessly wasteful”. “It is hard to overplay the architect­ural importance of this group of buildings, and the damage that would be done by knocking the vicarage down,” said the conservation adviser for the Victorian Society, Edmund Harris.

“The once-attractive brick and terracotta vicarage has been targeted by vandals and thieves, and allowed to become increasingly derelict, but it is not beyond repair. Its structure remains sound, and it could and should be restored.

“Knocking down the listed vicarage and selling off the junior school is a needlessly wasteful ap­proach that would also be extremely damaging to setting of the Grade I listed church, and to this unique ensemble of buildings. The diocese needs to go back to the drawing board,” Mr Harris said.

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