Harrogate is one of the happiest places to live in Yorkshire according to numerous polls.  The borough incorporates the cathedral city of Ripon, and the towns of Knaresborough, Pateley Bridge, and numerous villages.  Harrogate is first mentioned in records in the 1330’s, and in 1372 the Royal Forest of Knaresborough was granted to John of Gaunt by his father King Edward II.  The Duchy of Lancaster became the primary landowner in the region. 

Located in the county of North Yorkshire, the metropolitan borough is spread over 505 square miles and has a population of over 151,000 people with 72,000 of those people living in Harrogate.  The town is linked to the railway network and is close to Leeds and York.  It has good transport connections to the A1, A59 and A61 trunk roads, and has an international airport 10 miles away.  The town is bordered by the Yorkshire Dales to the North and West, and by the Vale of York to the East.  Nidderdale, an area of outstanding natural beauty is nearby.

In 1571 the first mineral water spring was discovered by William Slingsby and Harrogate began to develop from a sleepy hamlet in the early 16th Century into a wealthy spa town once the health benefits of the spa waters were publicised in 1626.  Between 1788 and 1846 the town was developed by the Duchy of Lancaster including the Georgian Theatre and the Pump Rooms and the centre of Harrogate starts to look like it does today.  Harrogate is also famous for the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens at Harlow Carr, the Valley Gardens in the town centre, the Great Yorkshire Show, and the vast green open space called The Stray.   Did you know that the effects of adrenaline on the circulation system were first observed by Harrogate doctor George Oliver, and Crimpolene was invented there.

Harrogate’s houses are not preserved in aspic.  Whilst there are a lot of sweeping Georgian terraces, solid stone terraces, and grand mansions in the town centre, Harrogate’s housing has developed as the population has grown.

Traditional houses in Harrogate

There are not many tower blocks in Harrogate, so the skyline remains relatively even.  The Georgian and Victorian buildings may rise to 4 or 5 storeys, and the one tower block near the station (Harrogate House) has a love/hate relationship with the population.  It does stick out like the proverbial sore thumb, but it is of its time and there could be an argument for preserving the architectural style for future generations to loathe or admire.

Harrogate House

Harrogate does have housing estates of varying housing styles in addition to the traditional stone built houses in the town centre.  In the Bilton area for example, there are traditional post war, two storey brick built houses and flats alongside the more modern developments.  In the Jennyfields area there are a variety of building styles including some low rise flats built in the 1980’s with an unusual roofline as shown below.  It shows that time does not stand still.

Houses in Bilton and Jennyfields

Harrogate Borough Council, like many other local authorities across the country was keen to ensure its citizens had decent, affordable housing.  It allowed the building of non-traditional building methods that emerged after the First World War, and continued building new non- traditional housing after the Second World War building.

Non-traditional building methods often involveLuke6060 hanging a building envelope off a steel, concrete, or timber frame, or using precast concrete sections connected together to form the building structure.  They were quick to build, cheap to produce, and used the latest methods of industrialised construction.  Most of these systems were developed from the 1950’s to the 1970’s to provide long term housing solutions, with a few being classed as temporary accommodation.  The Building Research Establishment (BRE) lists over 500 different types of non-traditional building types developed between 1919 and 1976, with some being specific to particular areas.  Identifying and undertaking a survey on this type of building can be difficult, especially as many of the types have been re-cladded, upgraded, or modernised which disguises the original construction method.  Modernisation and recladding can often hide latent defects in the frame and original structure.  Some of the types identified in Harrogate include Airey’s, British Iron and Steel Federation houses, Wimpey No Fines, Orlit, Spooners and Livett-Cartwright.

Examples of thermal cladding disguising the original structure

Some of the latent defects in non-traditional buildings that have been identified by the BRE include corrosion in the steel stanchions in some steel framed houses, failure of the sealant/baffles in large panel systems, carbonation of concrete cladding resulting in cracking, spalling and exposure of steel reinforcement, excessive condensation and cold bridging, and components no longer being manufactured for particular house types leading to inappropriate repairs, (E.g.  Cladding panels being out of production).  While some of these would be obvious to a surveyor, frame defects cannot be identified without destructive testing.

To keep this in perspective, non-traditional construction methods have generally performed well over the years.  It is worth bearing in mind that the much vaunted traditional method of brick cavity construction has only been widely used since the 1930’s and that some of the non-traditional methods are older.  This reassurance by the BRE that non-traditional construction methods are actually OK has not prevented mortgage lenders from being reluctant to lend on these property types, even though a traditional built house may have structural movement.

New housing continues to be built today.  While they may not be the size of the Jennyfields estate, the demand for housing shows no sign of slowing down, more new developments should be expected.

In addition to new developments, older estates are being regenerated, for example, there has been a programme of externally insulatingnon-traditional housing in Jennyfields and Dene ParkThis is aimed at improving the quality of the housing on the estate and improving the outlook for the communities.

So, what to do if you are unsure about what you are buying?

Charters Reid Surveyors have a wealth of experience in surveying all building types including non-traditional building methods.  We can offer peace of mind Home Movers Reports, more detailed Building Surveys, investigate specific defects, provide fire risk assessments, provide house in multiple occupation surveys, and much more.  We will always provide a comprehensive and professional service and after sales service.  More details about surveys and how to contact us can be found at www.surveys4you.co.uk or by giving the friendly team a call on 01904 468881, or 01423 259601.