By Oliver Gibson –
It has now been three years since the Highfield College building was sold to San Pedro Properties as part of a £1.25 million deal.
While the building was previously owned by Kirklees College, which moved to their new campus in 2018, it was actually purpose-built for a grammar school in 1839. Highfield, the area in which it is located, has been described by the local historian David Griffiths as ‘Huddersfield’s first suburb,’ with the area being full to the brim of historical charm.
It was, therefore, highly important that any redevelopment of the building paid respect not just to the historical importance of the building itself but also to the significance of the area in which it sits.
Thankfully, San Pedro Properties, a family-owned firm, always intended their redevelopment to complement Highfield College and put use to a building that no longer had one.
What is San Pedro Properties all about?
San Pedro Properties Ltd. is co-owned by three brothers, Nicholas, Simon and Andrew Mear, who started the company in 2000. The firm is based in Norwood Green, Halifax.
According to Yorkshire Live, San Pedro Properties has a ‘track record’ when it comes to bringing historically significant buildings back into use. For example, the firm recently turned an old church into a premium house. However, a large extension was fitted onto the front of that property and the materials used on that extension contrasted heavily with the historic aged bricks that were used in the construction of the church.
The work on Highfield College up to this point
While work began on Highfield College just one month after the sale was completed, a number of setbacks hampered the project in the time that followed.
For a start, the Coronavirus pandemic put a halt to a great deal of non-essential work in March 2020. While the Government asserted in a guidance document from that month that ‘construction sites [had] not been asked to close,’ every workplace had to make changes to their usual processes in order to stay Covid-safe. Self-isolation also added further pressure to labour shortages as a result of the pandemic.
San Pedro also faced some resistance from Kirklees Council in 2020. The Strategic Planning Committee of the Council had put a temporary stop to work on the site until more details on its ‘financial viability’ were made available.
Despite these setbacks, San Pedro Properties have managed to get one-third of the flats at Highfield completed, with the firm recently announcing that ten flats were ready to be put on the market and rented out. The rest of the flats may take two years to complete, however.
While an increase in the number of properties on the market is generally a good thing, as it provides greater choice for consumers and alleviates some of the excesses of the ‘housing crisis,’ one has to wonder what the price of these flats will be.
It seems to be a common trend in this country for firms to redevelop old buildings as high-priced flats to be rented out. This trend has been reflected in the proposed redevelopment of Ramsden House on the high street in Huddersfield.
These expensive flats do little to solve the ‘housing crisis,’ as first-time buyers cannot afford them and wouldn’t be able to buy them even if they had the money. Still, one can be still be pleased that a historic building in a significant suburb has been saved from demolition.
Check out Oliver Gibson’s recent article: Twenty years on from Bradford’s ‘2020 Vision’ and what it might tell us about Kirklees’ plans