New lease of life for iconic city building

A PLANNING application that architects say will restore one of Ely’s most iconic buildings to its former glory has been submitted to the district council.

The Grade I listed Old Bishop’s Palace was leased to the King’s School late last year and, after months of research and planning, the finishing touches have been put on plans that architects hope will give new life to the building’s rich history.

Documents submitted to the district council in June outlined proposals for new sixth form classrooms, dining, gym and boarding rooms as well as office space and an international dormitory accommodation.

The firm working on the development, GSS Architecture, said in its submission: “The proposals will be to the long term benefit of the structure, as it will be occupied and maintained. This will help to preserve the elements of significance, allowing many more generations to enjoy the building and its surroundings.

“There will inevitably be a historic impact as this development adds a new layer to the history of the building. It is hoped that the development will become a tool to reveal and restore the previous layers of history resulting in a building in which the historic significance is prominently displayed.”

The first parts of the Old Bishop’s Palace complex, which sits adjacent to the cathedral, date back to the 15th Century, with major additions added over the next 300 years as respective bishops increased the scale and volume of the complex.

The building was traditionally the seat of the Bishops of Ely until 1941 after which it was converted for use by charitable organisations.

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Up until 2009, the building was utilised as a Sue Ryder Care Home but a growing financial deficit and stringent new Government regulations forced the charity to move its 40 residents to new premises.

After acquiring the lease in 1986, Sue Ryder made a number of modern additions to the fabric of the building to facilitate its use as a care home which King’s School architects hope to strip out as part of their plans.

“In recent years the palace has had a hard but valuable previous use as a care home. It is now in need of some intensive refurbishment in order to restore it to its former glory,” their report noted.

A period of public consultation on the plans finished on Wednesday, with a decision from planning officers expected by August 11.