Updated: Demolition work begins on Walker Welfare Centre

Diggers move onto the Walker Welfare Centre site on Wednesday. (D536B341)
Diggers move onto the Walker Welfare Centre site on Wednesday. (D536B341)

Demolition work on a community centre that campaigners fought to save has started.

The 200-year-old Walker Welfare Centre in Thornhill has laid empty since 2006, and Kirklees Council announced its intention to demolish the building in July.

But despite discussions between members of campaign group Save Walker Welfare (Again), ward councillors and council officers, work began to demolish the building on Wednesday.

It will take two weeks to clear the site, but arrangements have been made to salvage some features, which Save Walker Welfare (Again) hope to incorporate into their plans for a new building.

Andy Waring, group spokesman, said although the group is sad to see the end of the building, they are positive about the future.

They are now focused on legally formulating the group so they are able to apply for funding.

The group is also exploring whether they could seek compensation from Kirklees Council for both money spent by user groups maintaining the building in the past, and £100,000 that was put aside for building by the Council before it closed.

Mr Waring said: “We feel that because of the money the old age people’s group put into the new roof and windows there is a case for compensation. The money Kirklees pledged in the past never materialised but we’re exploring whether we could get that - and anything gained would be used for the new building.”

The group hope the facade of the new building will be similar to the old centre, with the back having a more modern design.

A memorial plaque for Richard Walker, who built the centre, and two brass plaques from inside have been saved, and it is hoped the new centre will have a replica bell tower.

Coun David Sheard, Kirklees Council’s joint cabinet member for resources, said the council remains open to the group’s proposals for the future use of the site.

He said: “Clearly it will take some time for them to develop their plans and raise the finance required, but I am happy to give my assurances that there are no plans to dispose of the site for at least the next five years.

“This will enable community groups to bring forward their proposals.”