A bandstand at the centre of a demolition controversy has now been listed by Historic England and believed to be the only surviving example of its kind.
Calderdale Council’s cabinet agreed to demolish the bandstand in Centre Vale Park, Todmorden, last summer but the decision prompted a backlash locally with well over 2,000 people submitting a petition urging it be saved, believed to be the largest petition the council has ever received.
Since then councillors have put the demolition on hold to give the Save Our Bandstand volunteer group, formed within days of the demolition decision, time to formulate a business plan to not only explore funding options for repair but also proposals to ensure it is used as a community asset in the years ahead.
The group has welcomed the decision by Historic England to give the building, built in 1914, Grade-II listed status and both it and the council hope this can act as a springboard for proposals to secure its future.
Historic England has said it has made the listing because it is the only surviving example of a pre-First World War theatre-type bandstand in England, with fewer than 15 believed to have been built in this style across the country.
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According to Historic England it is also being listed because it is a good example of a bandstand designed for enhanced acoustics, with a tiered stage and soundboards behind and above the players and retaining the majority of its functional features.
It has also been enhanced “with considerable decorative flair and ornamentation, most faithfully reproduced after a serious 1999 fire and largely surviving,” say Historic England.
Save Our Bandstand is asking the council to transfer the structure, which has fallen into disrepair over the last decade, to it by a community asset transfer.
Neil Davies, who made the application to Historic England on behalf of the group, with additional photographic evidence supplied by James Duffy, said the decision was good news and, although it did not guarantee the building’s future, it offered it more protection.
“I was surprised it wasn’t listed and felt listing it provided an extra layer of protection. I put the initial application in not necessarily with that much hope because Calderdale had said it was a replica. Historic England disagreed.”
Mr Davies said the listing meant the council would have more hoops to go through to demolish it but the group’s efforts were continuing apace and a completed business plan would be central to its future.
He hoped people would also look at the structure as more than a bandstand.
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Save Our Bandstand hopes to complete its business plan by the end of January and this should show costings and prices for renovations, maintenance, events of all kinds, weddings, cinema, and security including CCTV, and detailing the group’s policy and guidelines.
Last summer councillors were told rebuilding the bandstand to original specification would cost around £300,000, later acknowledged to be a maximum estimate, and as it had been repeatedly hit by vandalism attempts a better option would be to demolish it and develop a performance space in its place, with a further option just to make the structure sufficiently safe rejected.
Acknowledging the strength of feeling shown by Todmorden people about the building, full council agreed in late November to put the decision on ice until the end of the municipal year in the spring to give the group time to draw up its proposals.
Councillors also agreed a recommendation that Cabinet reconsider the demolition decision – and this was supported by all parties.
Cabinet member for regeneration and resources, Coun Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) has met with group members and council officers who deal with community asset transfers are due to meet with them.
On the building being listed, Coun Scullion said: “The listing enables the local community to step up its work to secure grant funding for restoration, to bring the bandstand back to its former glory.”
The council says the future of the bandstand has been up for discussion for a number of years due to its deteriorating condition, saying it has continued to work with the community to secure its future, seeking fundraising support for the required repairs.
Last July, as no community organisations had formally expressed an interest to take on responsibility for the bandstand, the council had no option but to pursue demolition and the creation of a new performance space on the site, it said.
Save Our Bandstand believes the listing decision is a crucial waymarker in preventing demolition.
So far requests for Todmorden Town Council to become a partner in the project have not been successful following a split vote on the parish authority.
The bandstand has been unsafe to use for much of the last decade but in the past was used at events like Todmorden Carnival and for concerts ranging from summer brass band events to amplified music events like Greenpeace’s Day On The Green event which ran annually for 20 years from the early 1980s.