Crumbling Gothic mansion given a new lease of life as centre for adult learning

A BUSINESSMAN from Ilkley has turned a dilapidated Victorian Gothic mansion into a thriving adult education centre in the heart of Burley in Wharfedale.

Alan Hayes, 60, bought Burley Grange from Bradford College for 650,000 in May 2009.

The 1840 building had been closed for a number of years and was in a state of disrepair.

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Mr Hayes has since spent 80,000 on a programme of repair and renovation and a year ago started running adult education courses.

Most of the courses are vocational; his company Business Support & Development has several government contracts to provide training through the Learn Direct, Train to Gain, Initial Steps, New Deal and Information Advice and Guidance schemes.

The company's revenues have grown steadily over recent years and last year turnover was just short of 1m, up from 240,000 in 2007, said Mr Hayes. He employs 30 people across five training centres.

Forthcoming government austerity measures may threaten future funding for training schemes, but Mr Hayes was bullish about his firm's prospects. "There will always be a move to trying to persuade people to learn virtually, but they have not been able to do without bricks and mortar locally," he said.

"The people who need training the most are not the ones who are going online at home."

Mr Hayes said the company has renewed and retained existing contracts in the last year and is bidding for more.

About 1,000 people have taken part in vocational courses, such as IT

and administration, at Burley Grange in the last 12 months, while 400 people have taken part in non-vocational courses, which range from photography to belly-dancing, he said.

The next step is to renovate the upstairs of Burley Grange – Mr Hayes plans to develop some apartments and will "live above the shop" with his extended family.

Mr Hayes said: "I like to think we have done a reasonable job in dragging it back to the state it is."