A NEW chapter in the life of Otley's historical Civic Centre could be about to begin with plans to convert it into high end apartments.

A listed building application has been submitted to Leeds City Council by Otley Civic Centre Limited to convert the imposing building, on Cross Green, into 35 apartments.

The centre has played an important role in the life of the town since it was commissioned by members of the local mechanics institute and officially opened in 1871. A century later it became the base for Otley Town Council and the town's museum, but it has stood empty since 2010.

Now architects working for the developers are arguing that the latest proposal is the only way forward for the building and will stop it falling into further disrepair.

In its design and access heritage statement C4 Architecture says:"The existing building is beyond repair for many uses. Former feasibilities have been undertaken on the building and Leeds Council took the stance of the way forward for this building was to sell the asset.

"There has been many proposals looked at in the past and none found viable and with the building currently up for sale and let with no takers other than a Mosque the client has brought a proposal for conversion to apartments forward.

"Earlier reports have highlighted a refurbishment cost of £2,311,000 this would now be seen as higher cost due to the extensive dry and wet rot within the building as well as substantial structural cracks within the external walls."

They add: "We would see this proposal is the only way forward for this building and it is critical the council look to approve this scheme to ensure that this building does not go beyond the critical path to allow renovation and repair of this listed building."

Otley and Yeadon councillors, Sandy Lay, Ryk Downes and Colin Campbell are urging residents to have their say on the plans.

This is an important listed building within the towns conservation area,” said Cllr Lay. “Sadly, after they closed the building Leeds allowed it to fall into disrepair. It is good to see that plans are now being put forward for refurbishment, but it is important that they both reflect the historical significance of the building and the community’s aspirations for development.”

Cllr Downes said “there are obviously a number of concerns about the proposal. Is it too intense, will it damage the listed building and an important one for neighbouring residents where will those who occupy the flats park their cars. These are issues which need to be sorted out before development takes place.”

“We appreciate that new uses need to be found for old buildings,” said Cllr Campbell, “but it is important that residents express their views on what that use should be. This is why we are encouraging all interested groups to comment on the application to ensure we get the best development for Otley.”

The Civic Centre was sold at auction for £600,000 in 2020. Leeds City Council had put the Grade II Listed property on the market as part of its efforts to plug a multi-million pound budget deficit.