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Ideas revealed for city's Western Park

Published on Thursday, April 13, 2017

A LOCAL developer and community group could potentially be working in partnership to breathe new life into land and empty buildings on a Leicester park.

Leicester City Council has announced that two bids have reached the final stage for the purchase and redevelopment of two areas of land on Western Park, which between them contain a former open-air school, and a pioneering ecologically-friendly house.

One is a joint bid from local company Parmar Properties and Western Ward Community Enterprise (WWCE), formerly known as The Friends and Residents of Western Park. The other is a bid solely from Parmar Properties.

The council put the land and buildings up for sale in June last year, with the aim of finding a purchaser who would bring the sites back into use while respecting their history.

The first 2.88-acre plot houses the Grade II listed former school, which was built between 1928 and 1930 to provide education for children in poor health.  The second plot is home to the Eco House and other buildings, on a 2.51-acre site.

The buildings have stood empty for a number of years, and would need extensive refurbishment and partial rebuilding to be brought back into use.

Four bids were received by the council, and after meeting with the organisations concerned and obtaining further details on the proposals, the council now has a shortlist of two.

Parmar Properties is owned by Naresh and Sharon Parmar, who have successfully refurbished a number of historic and vulnerable buildings in the city including the City Rooms on Hotel Street.

Their sole bid is to prioritise the refurbishment of the former school, which is a vulnerable Grade ll listed building, and to transform it into eight individual office spaces for let or for sale.

They would then develop 20 two-storey houses on the other, bigger site – four of which would be affordable housing – and redevelop the Eco House for use as their own private offices.

Under the joint bid with Western Ward Community Enterprise, they would lease the Eco House to the community group on a 999-year lease, for a peppercorn rent.

WWCE would be responsible for raising funding to refurbish the Eco House.  The building would be used for a variety of community purposes, including providing a base for the Western Park Freeriders, a group of volunteers who run the BMX and mountain bike track on the park.

As part of this proposal, WWCE would also be given a 999-year lease for a detached classroom building at the southern end of the park site, from which they would operate a community café.

Leicester assistant city mayor for environment and sustainability, Cllr Adam Clarke, said: “I’m pleased to say that we have now reached the final stage of the bidding process and have two bids on the table from people who can bring the these long-redundant sites back into use.

“The Grade ll listed former school is a particular challenge and will require extensive conservation work, so we welcome the interest from Naresh and Sharon Parmar who have carried out very sympathetic restorations of other buildings in the city.

“We are now seeking more information on both sets of proposals and hope to make an announcement on the successful bid in the next few weeks.”

Western ward councillor and historian Dr Susan Barton was responsible for getting the former building its Grade ll listing around six years ago. She said: "This is really excellent news for the school which could now be brought back into use as an important part of our community. I know of no other building like it in the country, and it's of great importance to the heritage and history of our city."