The George Hotel’s proposed new extensions will ruin the way the Victorian hotel looks and there is no justification for it.

So says The Victorian Society which has hit out at radical plans to knock down two wings of the landmark Grade II listed building to add new extensions on.

Kirklees Council is applying for Listed Building Consent for partial demolition of the George Hotel to renovate it into a high-quality hotel that will be operated by the Radisson Hotel Group.

The £20m project would increase the number of bedrooms from 60 to 91 – the number of bedrooms research has advised Kirklees is needed to make the hotel a viable business. It would also have conference space, a bar and restaurant.

The ground floor could house a lounge, 70-seater restaurant and bar along with a large conference-style room. The lower ground floor will provide a 100-cover banqueting suite for business events, receptions and weddings.

But conservation adviser Guy Newton from The Victorian Society has concerns, especially about the new wing proposed next to the railway station.

He says: “Our principal concerns are the lack of a convincing justification for the demolition and the proposed extension’s inappropriate design for a very prominent and historically significant location beside the Grade I listed Huddersfield Station.”

The north west wing was constructed in 1874 as a service area containing a kitchen and laundry with further staff accommodation added in 1963.

The George Hotel as it looks today

Mr Newton said: “The chimney and exterior walls positively add to the almost exclusively 19th century-built environment, in particular the setting of the Grade I listed station building. The justification for the full demolition of this wing is primarily based on the client’s minimum requirements for bedrooms which is more than 90.

“Up to 79 to 85 rooms could be achieved without the large scale of proposed demolition. Falling short by five bedrooms across the site would not make the hotel financially unviable, but the large scale of demolition would cause less than substantial harm to the Huddersfield Conservation Area and substantial harm to the historic and architectural significance of the George Hotel.”

The Victorian Society is also against the east wing being demolished and replaced.

Mr Newton said: “The east wing facing onto John William Street was also constructed in 1874 and contained a large dining room, billiards room and bedrooms above. The exterior seamlessly extends the Italianate classical design of the main building.

“The interior, although altered, contains features such as cornicing and skirting and a coherent 19th century hotel plan form, in particular the dining room.

“The proposal entails the almost complete demolition of this wing with only the John William Street façade retained. The loss of the interiors would cause substantial harm to the significance of this heritage asset.”

He added: “The proposed massing of the extension which would replace the north west wing and most of the east wing is too large. It would be visually jarring and greatly distract from the carefully executed classical design of the hotel and neighbouring heritage assets.

“The George Hotel sits within the Historic England Huddersfield High Street Heritage Action Zone. There has been a huge amount of local authority and Historic England funds spent on conservation works to this building. It seems bizarre that this scheme seeks to demolish and façade large parts of a heritage asset both Historic England and the local authority have spent money on to conserve.”

Huddersfield Civic Society broadly welcomes the hotel’s regeneration but also has concerns about the demolition and new extensions.

In its official response to the plans it states: “There appears to be poor justification for the demolition of some of the later adaptations within the original 1850 building. While the society would not necessarily object to their demolition, it is felt they are integral to the building’s story and there must be a clear demonstration why these structures cannot be adapted.

“The square and its buildings were constructed specifically to impress those who alighted from trains to visit the town and carry out their business.

“The critical importance of the proposed extensions is that they retain the visual impact of the square and enhance the collective importance of individual components. The society is unsure whether the proposed extensions reflect this special and unique quality.”

According to The Victorian Society the George Hotel was designed by William Wallen in 1849-1850 with extensions in 1850 and 1938. It’s notable for its grand Italianate style and historic role as the site of the founding of Rugby League in 1895.

The society states: “The hotel exemplifies a railway hotel of the ‘heroic’ era of railway expansion between 1841 and 1850 and serves as a prime example of purpose-built commercial premises from the mid-19th century.

“Its architectural layout highlights the shift from coaching inns to commercial hotels. The hotel also has strong group value with other listed buildings in St George’s Square.”

Public consultation on the plans has now finished with a decision expected in the coming weeks.

  • Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.