After a summer break it’s time for a wander. Let’s start on Haxby Road, with a look at the old Rowntree factory buildings, again. This seems like a good idea for several reasons:
— it follows on nicely from Alison Sinclair’s guest contribution on the city’s other famous chocolate factory, Terry’s
— because of a recent comment in response to one of my earlier pages on these buildings
— and because of the rolls of razor wire decorating the Haxby Road frontage, which I’ve been meaning to mention since I first noticed them, back in May.
These buildings here, the remnants of Rowntree’s, were designated a Conservation Area some years back.
According to the council’s own guidance:
Conservation areas have extra planning controls applied to them to help preserve or enhance their character and protect their settings.
These controls apparently mean permission is needed for a range of alterations, including minor details like installing satellite dishes. There’s no specific mention of whether permission is needed to unravel great long rolls of razor wire all around buildings in a Conservation Area, but personally I found it didn’t really enhance the character of this important group of buildings.
I’ve popped by every now and then over the years to take photos here. The main factory entrance, as it was, some years apart:
It hasn’t looked impressive for many years now. But the main difference between the two images above, four years apart, is the razor wire.
Perhaps this is one interpretation of ‘protecting a setting’? It’s clearly intended to protect the property from potential trespassers. But just look at this vicious stuff. All around a place famous for its fairness and kindliness.
The site is overflowing with foliage, including the ubiquitous buddleia. The local wildlife will have benefited from its fenced-off emptiness. Birds, bats, bees, possibly larger beasts like hedgehogs and urban foxes. I’m a bit worried about any hedgehogs snuffling about in there, with the razor wire all around it, across the grass and through the bushes.
Presumably Nestlé still own the site, or at least have some interest in it. They did a fine and thoughtful thing in the work on the old factory clocks, a few years back. There has been some management of the weediness around the entrance. Personally the weediness didn’t bother me: at least it was wildlife-friendly. The razor wire really isn’t though, is it.
Hard to imagine that massive factory building finding a new use, and if it is to find one, it will presumably take years before work even starts. So rolls of razor wire around the place for years then?
In front of the massive factory block is a much smaller and more handsome building. I’ve written about that before too.
While it’s understandable that the huge factory building is still empty, it’s harder to understand why this building still is. The Joseph Rowntree Memorial Library, as it states proudly above the door. I wonder what he’d think about our lack of action in finding a new use for this. Years now it has been sitting there empty. Now with rolls of razor wire around it.
So much is said so often about the city’s proud chocolate-related heritage. We’re really good at promoting it to visitors, selling it. In recent years we’ve also become really good at recording the oral history part of it, collecting the stories of people who worked in the chocolate factories. And over at the Terry’s site there’s a lot of interest in what happens to its landmark clock tower, seen as iconic.
This factory remnant isn’t as pretty, and doesn’t have a clock tower visible for miles around. What remains of the factory block is still a landmark in the local neighbourhood, and particularly from Haxby Road, as I fully recognised when approaching it to take these photos, last week.
But more important, and very different from Terry’s, is its clustered effect, onto the street. Buildings together telling the story of what the Rowntree family aimed for and achieved, a community of buildings for the workforce. A collection of buildings recognised as important because of that, and therefore designated a Conservation Area.
Nestlé presumably have enough funds to pay for security guards, if that’s what’s needed to protect the premises. So why the razor wire?
And the empty library … if it was in a different part of the city, it might it have been reused already. It’s only small, it’s Grade II listed, it’s handsome inside, apparently. It could be reused in a way that would benefit the wider community, celebrating the legacy of the Rowntree family, and Joseph Rowntree in particular. It could be reused as … well, a library seems the most obvious.