In towns and cities throughout the country there are old buildings which appear to be unused, boarded up, and highly likely earmarked for complete demolition. I emphasise the total destruction of these old factories, cinemas, houses or flats, simply because there is one thing I fail to understand. Firstly, I’m assuming that most of these condemned structures stand on perfectly sound foundations. Secondly, I imagine that some, if not most of these buildings structures, including brickwork and ironworks, are in a recoverable and serviceable condition. I therefore fail to see the logic of demolishing these buildings, some of historical significance to a community, simply to replace them with something brand new. Perhaps I’m missing something, but to the layman the scale of economic sense just doesn’t add up. Would it really cost so much more to rescue and renovate existing buildings than to render them ‘flat’? Market Harborough council had wanted to relocate to the town’s Market Hall, the current site of the indoor market, a plan that was scuppered by overpowering local opposition. Then the council approved £410,000 to improve said market building. Directly opposite this site were the derelict remains of the old Ritz Cinema (latterly used as a bingo hall and Kwik Save store), with its broken windows and dilapidated interior.
This would have made for a substantial civic building in which to house the council and at the same time protect a chunk of Harborough heritage. Sadly, during the past month, this old cinema building, first opened on 22nd May 1939, has been completely demolished, a process I witnessed first hand on a daily basis. The new development will feature “a selection of self-contained retirement apartments, all of which will benefit from a video-entry system, a 24-hour emergency telephone system, and a lodge manager”.
I don’t understand why the existing building could not, with a little imagination, have been turned into a similar set of retirement apartments. Corby’s old Odeon, Northampton’s old ABC and Kettering’s Savoy remain standing.