York Conservation Trust can repair 19th Century De Grey Rooms

MAJOR repairs and renovations have been approved for a historic York city centre building.

The move follows urgent repairs last autumn to the 19th Century De Grey Rooms in St Leonard’s Place, aimed to prevent further damage.

Now, the York Conservation Trust can undertake the work at the rooms, which follow its similar application to the adjoining De Grey House, which was sought and approved last year.

At the De Grey Rooms, the trust applied to undertake alterations including repairs to ironwork, roofs, windows, internal doors and floor finishes. It also sought to replace lighting and kitchenettes and upgrade electrical systems.

The Grade II-listed De Grey Rooms were built in 1841-42 as a military and public building and was the Officer’s Mess of the Yorkshire Hussars. Plans said the building is of national significance and forms part of York’s 18th and 19th Century cultural quarter.

It’s last tenants were the York Citizen’s Trust, who from 2010-2021 used it for costume hire, offices and performance studios. Other uses included entertainment for the Victoria gentry, dances, the focus of York’s VE Day celebrations in 1945 and more recently Goths nights and beer festivals. 

A council report noted the proposals were a “scheme of conservation repairs mostly on a like-for-like basis.”

Beyond the repairs, most were also “designed to improve fire safety, environmental sustainability, and flexibility, in order to secure an optimum viable use for the building.”

Recommending approval, council planners said the key issue was the impact on the listed building.

Much was like-for-like repairs, while some work would replace modern fixtures, or refurbish or reinstate features. The only ‘harm’ came from subdividing the serving room for fire safety reasons, which was ‘clearly justified’ for this public benefit, they added.

Last autumn, planners agreed to urgent works on the roofs and the southern elevation of the Ballroom Lantern.

“We need to undertake this work to prevent further damage to the plaster work of the ballroom ceiling,” the trust said at the time.

The York Conservation Trust leases properties to commercial and residential tenants in York, using the money to restore historic buildings.

When its plans were submitted last August, the application said: “De Grey Rooms is a very large building for which the original use no longer exists. As such the owners have found it very difficult to find tenants to occupy the site, resulting in it presently standing empty.”

“The proposed alterations within this proposal represent a clear public benefit in helping secure its optimum viable use through increased flexibility, functionality, reduced maintenance, improved environmental sustainability, and improved fire safety.

“The works outlined in this proposal are intended to be carried out in a phased approach in the coming years around short-term tenancies, until a long-term viable use for the site can be identified,” it added.

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