Don’t expect to see a wrecking ball tearing through huge chunks of the condemned buildings lining Exchange Street in Aylesbury – they’re being demolished bit by bit to recycle as much as possible.
The old police station, superintendent’s house and rear of the old county offices are being levelled to make way for a car park and the Waterside North development, which will include restaurants, apartments and green spaces.
According to lead project officer David Pearce for the county council, as much as possible from the buildings is being reused.
Some of it is ending up in the Old County Hall (part of the crown court complex), which is being refurbished into an exhibition space and – down in the cells – a luxury spa, which should be ready by the end of the year. Door knobs and bolts have been found new homes, while timber will form the wooden stairs leading down to the spa, and the cell doors from the police station, complete with prisoners’ graffiti, used for its treatment rooms.
Nothing is going to waste. Rubble will be used as the underlay from the car park, carpet sold off, furniture and radiators given to charities and schools. Even one of the station’s chimney pots is being given to a former police officer who worked there.
Any materials contractor Northbank Demolition is able to make money from will knock money off its bill to the council.
Speaking near the remains of the old station, Mr Pearce said: “We have tried to take anything of interest and reuse what we can, not just in the police station – which to be honest had little of interest compared to the old police headquarters [attached to the Greek Taverna, which is remaining], but also the old county offices [the rather grand building opposite the County Hall tower].”
Demolition work should be completed by early July and the car park up and running by the end of the year. This will make up for the spaces lost on the current Exchange Street car park, part of which will make way for restaurants and a new town square.
More places to eat and apartments will be placed in the old county offices, the front of which will remain.
The county council’s registry office, currently housed in the brutal surroundings of County Hall, will also move there – which should make for some rather more attractive wedding photos.
While those who campaigned to save the old police station may well disagree, Mr Pearce, who was drafted in by the county council due to his experience with heritage buildings, said the authority genuinely cared about preserving and enhancing the town’s history.
“I have been really impressed. I value my integrity and I would not have stayed if it was any other way. The council has been quite forceful in saying what it wants to happen and what can be done to retain historical buildings, improve them, open them up to the public and generate an income from them.”
The entire Waterside Scheme, a joint effort by Bucks County Council and Aylesbury Vale District Council, should be complete by 2021.