Group pleads for Derby's derelict Assembly Rooms to be saved from demolition

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'Read the room. The era of needless demolition is over'

A national campaign group has reiterated its plea for Derby’s Assembly Rooms to remain put and be refurbished and revitalised - not demolished as is currently planned.

The Twentieth Century Society Group - which raises awareness of outstanding UK buildings that are at risk - has told Derby councillors wanting to knock down the empty city centre venue to “read the room”.

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Earlier this month, councillors of Derby City Council’s planning committee called for the authority to knock down the Market Place building as soon as possible and get a “meanwhile use” for the land in place prior to any long-term solution being built in its place. 

The Assembly Rooms has been closed following a fire in 2014.

Planning permission to demolish the building was agreed in 2021 but it remains standing.

The current plan in place is to demolish the Assembly Rooms building and car park and build a new theatre in its place, which will be the new home of Derby Theatre.

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Derby Theatre is currently located on the other side of the city centre at Theatre Walk near the former Eagle Market.

The project is known as Project Assemble.

Funding to the tune of £20million has been allocated from the Government’s Levelling Up fund following a bid made last year.

However, the project is likely to need another £60m to £80m to complete.

But the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) has been told there could soon be a fresh announcement on the future of the building - although there have been no hints about what the announcement could be.

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Labour council leader Baggy Shanker said he was hopeful a statement would be made during the summer months.

Responding to the LDRS story, campaign group Twentieth Century Society described its potential demolition as “needless” and an “enormous expense” to the taxpayer.

The group said: “Read the room. The era of needless demolition is over. The residents of Derby deserve a refurbished and revitalised Assembly Rooms, not a civic hub standing empty or being flattened at enormous expense.”

The campaign group’s website says it has already raised “strong objections” to authorities about the proposed demolition of the Assembly Rooms and believes the building is in “good condition”.

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The group has long been calling for the building to be listed which could ensure its future.

However, the council said in a “housekeeping” report to councillors that a “Certificate of Immunity” was issued for the Assembly Rooms in April this year.

This means it cannot be listed for a five-year period from the date on which the certificate is issued.

The council says it received a petition of more than 2,000 signatures calling for the Assembly Rooms to be saved.

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The petition says the Assembly Rooms is “arguably the finest 20th-century building in the city of Derby”.

At the planning meeting on July 13, Mickleover councillor Mathew Holmes said he was worried about potential spiralling demolition costs if it was not bulldozed soon.

He said: “I think the principle of demolition has been agreed and I think we can all agree that is going to happen at some point. While we are noting this (report), the site is still there and it is a burden on the city in terms of ongoing costs - demolition costs are going to be increasing massively every month that it is left there. I hope the new administration would take another look at a ‘meanwhile use’.”

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