Council takes over Pioneer House and the hard work starts now

KIRKLEES Council has taken control of Dewsbury’s landmark Pioneer House.
A compulsory purchase order for the iconic building was completed this week and ownership has passed from Stayton Developments to the council, who have already begun making the Northgate site safe.
The derelict Pioneer building has dominated Dewsbury’s skyline since 1878, but fell into disrepair after Stayton Developments bought it in 2005.
Robert Stayton secured planning permission for a retail and apartments complex that was to be the centrepiece of his flagship regeneration scheme for the town.
But the project never got off the ground and the listed building’s condition deteriorated rapidly.
A purchase price has not yet been agreed but earlier this year Mr Stayton, who says he has invested £1.7 million in the property, slapped a £1 million price tag on it.
Kirklees officials believe that it could take another 12 to 18 months of negotiations to reach a deal, but because remedial work was needed urgently final legal notices were served and the building became council property on Tuesday.
Legal proceedings began in 2009 to compulsorily purchase the building, resulting in a public inquiry in November 2010. Kirklees got the goahead in March.
Stayton removed its own barriers and hoardings from the site last weekend and the council has already replaced them with its own.
Coun David Sheard, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing, said: “Our first priority is to carry out urgent repairs to protect the building from further decay, by making it safe and watertight.
“Workers are already inside surveying the property and insurers will be next in to let us know what we need to do to make it secure and insurable.
“The work starts now. It will be a long process because, having looked inside, it’s been entirely stripped out. There are no floors or staircases in some areas.
“While the council has the resources to repair the building, we must work closely with other individuals and organisations to bring it back into full occupation and use.
“We hope to be able to publish full proposals for the building and a timetable for the regeneration work later in the autumn.”
Earlier this year the council said it had set aside £3.5 million for the purchase and repair of the onceproud building.
Originally built for the Dewsbury Pioneers’ Industrial Society, it has been home to a wide variety of tenants including a theatre, cinema, library, French polishers, butchers, cobblers and an Italian restaurant.
Provisional plans include retail units on the ground floor and a ‘business generator’ area on the upper levels for startup firms.
One of the project partners is The Prince’s Regeneration Trust (PRT), who contacted the council after hearing about the increasingly poor state of the building.
The PRT are experts in heritageled regeneration and their chief executive Ros Kerslake said: “Pioneer House is a striking building of historic, social and architectural importance that cannot be left to ruin. It’s also a building that can provide a viable use for future generations.”
Dewsbury and Mirfield MP Simon Reevell is set to meet with Council Leader Mehboob Khan on Monday to discuss the project.

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