Developers eye up town’s ‘half-witted’ tower block

PLANS are set to be submitted this week to transform a Harrogate tower block – dubbed one of the world’s ugliest buildings by American author Bill Bryson – as controversial proposals to redevelop the centre of the spa town move a step closer.

The application to spruce up the much-maligned Harrogate House and change the use of the building to include retail, residential and restaurant use is the first application tied in with Harrogate property developer Philip Lunn’s plans to pedestrianise the town’s Parliament Street and divert A61 traffic down Montpellier Hill.

The proposals have provoked an outcry from residents since they were announced earlier this month.

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Last week, the group chief executive of Bettys and Taylors Group, whose iconic cafe is situated at the top of Parliament Street, expressed concern that he had been described by the developer as a high-profile backer of the scheme despite claiming the plan was not yet fully formed.

But Mr Lunn, managing director of Lateral Property Group, claims the application is an important first step that will benefit the whole of Parliament Street and bring Harrogate House in line with the other historic buildings in the area.

In travel writer Bill Bryson’s hugely popular tour of the UK – Notes From A Small Island – Harrogate House, which is currently occupied by a furniture shop on the ground floor, is described as “a 60s block that rises, like some kind of half-witted practical joke, a dozen or so storeys into the air in a long street of innocuous Victorian structures”.

Bryson reckoned the best fate for the old building would have been to blow it up.

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The Parliament Street proposals includes a large public square created around the town’s War Memorial while the historic Montpellier Quarter would also be redeveloped.

Last week, following a meeting between Mr Lunn and more than 100 members of the Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, its president Simon Cotton defended the scheme to the Yorkshire Post, but warned the proposals need a radical overhaul before receiving their full backing.

Planning applications prepared by a group of Parliament Street landowners are expected to be submitted this year.