New plan for Old Grammar School in Richmond

From left, Keith Hall, Ian Hepworth, James Gravenor, Councillor Yvonne Peacock.

Richmondshire Community and Voluntary Action (RCVA) and Richmondshire Building Preservation Trust (RBPT) are joining forces to take forward ambitious plans to develop the Old Grammar School in Richmond.

For the past 5-years, the RCVA has been working on a plan to restore and develop the Grade II listed building to create a much-needed, vibrant hub, which would provide facilities for the community and local voluntary organisations.

However, funding for the RCVA and all local Community Voluntary Services (CVS) and Volunteer Centres provided by North Yorkshire County Council and North Yorkshire NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, has been withdrawn.

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The new contract, effective from 1 April, has been awarded to Rural Action Yorkshire (RAY) of York.

The loss of the contract has resulted in some difficult decisions for the RCVA, including re-evaluation of the group’s plans to restore the Old Grammar School in Richmond, a Grade II listed building.

Keith Hall, RCVA chairperson, said: “We have worked on the project for almost 5 years and recently secured a first-round pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

“Having successfully secured an HLF grant of £155,000 and a further £25,000 from the Architectural Heritage Fund to take the project to a second stage bid, we now find ourselves in the position of becoming a Trustee led organisation with no paid staff and limited resources to progress the project.

“This project was part of our strategy to become independent of grants and become a sustainable social enterprise, so we are very disappointed that our grant has been lost at this time.”

Mr Hall continued: “Despite this set back, we are still committed to finding a way to make sure the restoration of the building goes ahead and that it’s brought back into use for the benefit of the community and the local voluntary sector.

“This commitment has led to discussions with the RBPT and a meeting of Trustees from both organisations to explore how, by joining forces, the project can be developed to a second stage HLF bid.”

RCVA and RBPT have formed a Transition Committee, with representation from each Trustee Board, that is exploring the potential to transfer the project to RBPT.

Officials say that early indications from grant funders and the current owner of the building, Richmondshire District Council, are encouraging whilst still subject to their approval.

Members of the RBPT have met independently to discuss the Project and have viewed the Old Grammar School. 

Ian Hepworth, Chair of the RBPT said: “The Board of the RBPT are very keen to take this Project forward. It is 10 years since we undertook the restoration of Richmond Station.

“This has been a remarkable success story and we have been looking for another worthwhile project for some time. Richmond Station and the Old Grammar School have geographical and heritage links, both having as their architect George Townsend Andrews of York.

We see the two buildings as complementary and are in broad agreement with the plans put forward by the RCVA and although some of the detail will no doubt change we will retain the balance of community and commercial use with the commercial elements providing income to support the community and voluntary uses.”

The RBPT Treasurer, James Gravenor has been appointed Chair of the Transition Committee and looks forward to meeting the challenges ahead.

“The RCVA has done a tremendous amount of work on this project to restore the Old Grammar School for the benefit of the community and have received funding from the HLF against tremendous opposition.

“It is an absolute credit to their dedication. We are pleased to be given the opportunity to continue their work and hope that we shall be granted the necessary permissions. We are now in discussion with the HLF and other funders to see if we may take the project forward.”

Richmondshire District Council Leader Yvonne Peacock said: “I am delighted to see that the Richmond Building Preservation Trust have stepped in to deliver this important project and I can confirm that the District Council remains fully committed to finding a sustainable community use for the Old Lower School building.

“This building is an important part of Richmond’s heritage and by offering it up for community use the District Council hope that its future can be secured for generations to come. The Preservation Trust have an excellent track record of delivering projects of this type and the District Council are confident that they will do so again here.”