A developer who planned to protect a quarry’s heritage while building a bottling plant near Buxton has demolished a building as iconic as Solomon’s Temple just as it was being considered for protected status – despite giving repeated assurances it was safe from harm.
English Heritage, which had been considering listing The 1909 Powerhouse in Ashwood Dale, said it was “profoundly saddened” by the loss of the building, which had a striking Egyptian design.
Express Park Buxton Ltd has applied for permission to create a bottling plant in the disused Cowdale Quarry, plus a heritage visitor centre, which it is claimed will create 100 new jobs.
“English Heritage is profoundly disappointed and saddened by the recent demolition,” said an English Heritage spokesman.
The Powerhouse was one of a number of highly distinctive buildings which the landowner had been told were in the process of being recommended for designation.
“English Heritage had received repeated assurances that it was not the intention of the landowner to demolish any of the nationally important buildings prior to determination of the planning application.”
English Heritage is currently reviewing the legal and procedural implications of this case. Its Planning Director for the East Midlands, Dr Anthony Streeten, said: “This type of pre-emptive action is one of the most worrying threats to England’s industrial heritage.”
A spokesman for local heritage campaigners The Buxton Group said: “We’re appalled to hear the news. It was less prominent than Solomon’s Temple and Corbar Cross but equally iconic. Its destruction was a cynical attempt to facilitate the development.”
High Peak Council gave the go-ahead for demolition on safety grounds, but Ian Huddlestone, executive councillor for regeneration, said: “The council shares English Heritage’s concern.”
Planners were powerless to refuse the demolition order because it was demonstrably unsafe and English Heritage had not yet designated it an ancient monument.
“The council advised the owner that it would have been possible to fence off the building. However, the owner chose not to save the building,” said Cllr Huddlestone.
Locals in Cowdale are fighting Express Park’s application for a bottling plant.
“The destruction of this nationally important building shows the complete disregard the owner and the developer have for the history and environment at Cowdale Quarry,” said one local, who claimed the building was knocked down because it stood in the way of the road for the bottled water factory that will go through ‘a massive ugly hole’ in the side of Ashwood Dale.
“It is an act of absolute vandalism. Their plans include a sham quarry heritage centre. It shows their deceit and ignorance when they demolish the real, historic buildings and think people will go and look at photos of them. We would love the folk of Buxton to object to the factory by writing to High Peak Borough Council at Glossop, quoting reference HPK/2011/0182.”
A spokesman for Express Park Buxton said the landowner had contacted English Heritage about saving the structures at Cowdale Quarry in the mid-1990s but the watchdog made no suggestions until the planning application was lodged in 2009/10, and in February an engineer ruled it was dangerous.
“The landowner was very concerned at the potential for trespassers to injure themselves and that his insurance no longer covered such eventualities,” said the spokesman.
“BWPH Ltd was instructed to demolish the building and when they arrived on site on May 17 they found upwards of 30 youths in, on and around the Powerhouse building.” He added that instead of the five days thought necessary to knock it down, the building had “just collapsed” when work started.
“The landowner regrets that demolition was necessary but public safety has to be the paramount consideration.”