AN historic school building facing an uncertain future has now been saved thanks to a one-man crusade.
Hartlepool man David Bentham took it upon himself to safeguard Jesmond Road Primary School when it was put on the market last year as part of a multi-million pound education revamp.
He decided to try to get the building listed so it would be harder for any potential demolition plans – to make way for a more modern structure – to be approved.
And his efforts have paid off after receiving a letter from Government body English Heritage saying it is now officially categorised it as a Grade II listed building.
Civil servant David told the Mail: “I’m really pleased for the building and for the town to be able to keep such a lovely building rather than have it knocked down.
“There are so many new builds in the town now that it is rapidly losing its character, so to be able to retain some of its history with a building like this is just great.
“In the longer term, however, it will have to be developed to be fit for purposes for the future.
“It needs to be used rather than left, because potentially it could be vandalised.”
The 47-year-old added: “It just goes to show that anyone can do it, it wasn’t that difficult. I’d like to encourage other people in Hartlepool to save our historic buildings and buildings of interest.”
A spokeswoman for English Heritage confirmed the school had been Grade II listed, as well as its master’s house, play shed and surrounding wall.
She said: “I can confirm Jesmond Road Primary School in Hartlepool is now a Grade II listed building.
“Grade II buildings are nationally important and of special interest.
“Ninety-two cent of all listed buildings are in this class and it is the most likely grade of listing for a home owner.
“We recommended that the Department for Culture Media and Sport listed the building and they made the final decision to do so.”
She said the reasons were:
l Its architectural quality was a good example of a late boarding school built in a “lively and well detailed Queen Anne style”;
l It illustrates a range of building types and functions on a typical boarding school site;
l It displayed “an overall high level of external and internal intactness”.
She added: “Listing is not a preservation order, preventing change.
“Listing is an identification stage where buildings are marked and celebrated as having exceptional architectural or historic special interest, before any planning stage which may decide a building’s future.
“Listing does not freeze a building in time, it simply means that listed building consent must be applied for in order to make any changes to that building which might affect its special interest.
“Listed buildings can be altered, extended and sometimes even demolished within government planning guidance.
“The local authority uses listed building consent to make decisions that balance the site’s historic significance against other issues such as its function, condition or viability.”
As previously reported by the Mail, officers at Hartlepool Borough Council said Jesmond Road was surplus to requirements once pupils move to their new site this summer.
Building work has started on re-building the Percy Street school, in nearby Jesmond Gardens, renamed Jesmond Gardens Primary School, at a cost of £7m.
A council spokesman said: “The council is aware that Jesmond Road Primary School has been given status as a Grade II listed building following the recommendation from English Heritage.”