The Friends of Doncaster Gate Hospital – financial appeal

The Friends of Doncaster Gate Hospital are making a financial appeal. This is a copy of the email being circulated:

“Dear Supporters

Eileen Hyland of Rotherham Heritage Association has given us, the Friends of Doncaster Gate, permission to contact you urgently regarding the fate of Doncaster Gate Hospital. The council say they will demolish this weekend and our last chance lies with a legal challenge. To mount that challenge funds are urgently needed.

This, despite the news that a new developer stepped forward just before Christmas who was interested in preserving the historic frontage as part of a new development. This gave us some hope, just as Rotherham Civic Society’s application to list the building as a ‘Community Asset’ did. However, the developer pulled out after a number of meetings with the council and the council scuppered our chances of getting Government funding by refusing to list the hospital as a Community Asset on tenuous grounds. We don’t know why the developer pulled out and have been kept very much in the dark. We would be grateful for any information that you can pass on about this.

The news of developer interest removes RMBC’s original justification for demolition – that there has been no interest in buying the site. As for their other justification, that it is too expensive to maintain the whole site because of empty building business rates, we – The Friends, Rotherham Civic Society and Rotherham Heritage Association – made the difficult decision to address this directly by stating to the council that in the circumstances we would not object if the council demolished most of the site but kept the historic frontage. These proposals were ignored – we’ve not even had a reply from RMBC – despite the fact that this clearly deals with the problem of empty building business rates.

What we are left is RMBC’s remaining motive -that they can sell the site more quickly if there is no historic building in the way (and associated bad publicity no doubt) to deal with. The same facile argument could be made for demolishing any number of Rotherham’s historic buildings in an effort to bolster the town’s coffers.

Hollow justifications and repeated references by RMBC to the fact that the building is not listed underline what is sadly a deep rooted philistinism. We know (and many of the staff at RMBC planning dept. do too) that a building can have great historical and architectural merit and yet not be listed. English Heritage can make mistakes too – as the current fiasco regarding London’s Smithfield General Market illustrates.

When John Guest officiated at the opening ceremony of Doncaster Gate Hospital in 1872, he described it as a ‘noble edifice’. ‘Noble’, not only because of the architecture, but because of the hopes and dreams wrapped up in that building, of people from all walks of life who were striving together to make Rotherham a better, safer place. This is the same John Guest who walked away from his Guest and Chrimes factory, a powerhouse of Rotherham industry, to follow a life in politics and history. Guest was disappointed that the town didn’t take more pride in its history. One can only imagine what he would have thought of the politicians of today.

If you are prepared to donate towards a legal challenge to RMBC please could you email-:

pledge@doncastergate.org.uk

with an idea of how much you would be prepared to pledge. Given the urgency please could you also provide a telephone number.

With sufficient financial backing we can meet initial legal costs and open a bank account to push on with more fundraising. We need at least £500 to get things going, but really we need £5000 in reserves at a minimum to know we can move forward.

We want to ensure that RMBC comply with the law before demolishing Doncaster Gate. If it is necessary to go to judicial review to be sure of this, we would like to at least be able to say we tried to do this. We cannot guarantee that we would get as far as a hearing, however if a developer came forward in the meantime who wanted to keep the historic frontage then that would be a fantastic result, whether we won the legal battle or not.”

The Friends of Doncaster Gate Hospital

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