A 166-year-old engine shed is set to get a new lease of life as a £500,000 visitor attraction for Whitby.
The fate of the Old Engine Shed beside Whitby Station had been uncertain for many years, but now developer Terry Hodgkinson has announced his intention to create an art gallery, exhibition space and 80-table restaurant within the building.
Speaking exclusively to the Gazette, Mr Hodgkinson said: “I’m very excited about the proposal, we are trying to create something that is quite different and it’s not just a tourist attraction, it is a new venue for Whitby.”
A former director of Yorkshire Forward, Mr Hodgkinson is hoping to open the gallery on 30 March next year, as this will coincide with his 40th wedding anniversary.
The Grade II listed engine shed has had a chequered history of redevelopment opportunities, including the failed Cook’s World Heritage Centre in 2002.
It was restored to its current condition by developers Shaun and David Harrison, of Harrison’s Builders.
They were required to undertake the work as part of a Section 106 agreement while redeveloping a row of holiday cottages nearby.
“We are trying to respect the listed
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building and give it a completely new use,” said Mr Hodgkinson. “It is an important building that has had such a bad track record and I think everybody is breathing a sigh of relief to see an appropriate use of the building.”
PPIY Architects of York have been commissioned to design the 6,000 square foot ‘Show Gallery’, which will feature a mezzanine floor, and the 80-table cafe and restaurant.
This will make the engine shed one of the largest private galleries in North Yorkshire, where 12 prominent local artists will be able to exhibit their work.
Access to the public will be via the train station’s east platform and an agreement has already been reached with both the owners, Network Rail, and Northern Rail, the tenants.
The idea for the development – which will offer free admission to the public – came to Mr Hodgkinson, who owns a property on Grape Lane, when he was talking to a local artist. He explained: “At the beginning of 2012 one of my friends, Emma Stothard, asked me did I know anywhere you could do any sculpturing in Whitby, as there was nowhere at present.” This gave him the idea to look for exhibition spaces and he came across the engine shed, which had been recently put up for auction but had not sold. With a long history of property development, including the former Quaker Meeting House on Church Street, Mr Hodgkinson said the shed offered a “fantastic” new opportunity. He added: “It’s a new venue which will offer something that is not currently present in Whitby. We are also hoping for someone to take a cafe on that creates its own destination.”
Up to 50 full and part-time jobs are expected to be created by the development.
Outside the gallery will stand a three-metre high plinth, upon which will stand a prominent piece artwork that the developers hope will have the same impact as the Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square.
A curator designate has already been appointed, with Whitby Bookshop’s Fiona Duncan taking the role. With just a year until the proposed opening, she has already begun to meet with local artists. “Her background is as a museum and arts curator and she came highly recommended by stacks and stacks of people,” said Mr Hodgkinson.
Yesterday the developers met with Scarborough Borough Council’s Planning and Development Committee to discuss their proposal. Although no formal application has been made yet, the proposal has already received the report of a number of different groups, including Whitby Town Council, the Esk Valley Railway Development Company and Whitby Civic Society.