Historic Darley Abbey School Site has been Armisons Headquarters for Forty Years

It’s hard to believe that Armisons, a quantity surveying firm pivotal in building up Derby, England over the past forty years, is hidden a couple of hundred yards from Darley Abbey Mills.
Yet, its current home in a two-story Brick Row building, which the firm has occupied since 1976, is steeped in history. The building, formerly St. Matthew’s School, was built in the early 1820s to accommodate the families migrating to Darley Abbey during the Industrial Revolution.
The school operated until 1976, when it moved to a new building. This was when Armisons, a quantity surveying firm established by Michael Armison in 1972, was able to acquire the building. Mr. Armison explained that his purchase was “a fairly good bargain” and that the building was in a “reasonable condition,” even though his company did have to “spend a lot of money to alter” its interior and were prohibited from making exterior improvements due to its historic status. He praised the building’s spaciousness, high ceilings, environment and proximity to Derby’s city center.images (2)

Since moving into their new headquarters, Armisons’ business has advanced considerably. Today, Mr Armson is one of three partners at the firm, which has a team of ten people and makes over £750,000 a year. The company has expanded its offerings, which now include project management, construction cost management and quantity surveying, over the years and has handled thousands of projects. Armisons has worked on the Roundhouse restoration project, the Joseph Wright Sixth-Form Centre, Friar Gate Studios, the refurbishment of the buildings at Markeaton Park, the Derby Register Office and several commercial buildings in Pride Park. The firm has worked on supermarkets, theaters, hotels, sport facilities, healthcare facilities and religious buildings. One of their more impressive efforts was the rebuilding of a Victorian era church in Birmingham.

While Mr. Armison is pleased with his firm’s current headquarters, he has pondered moving to a new location. He admitted that he and his coworkers were “comfortable” in the “pleasant, nostalgic environment” of the Darley Abbey location, which is near a park. Armison also explained how out-of-town visitors were often impressed by the quaintness of their location. More than this, he said the area the firm is now located in has become a “thriving business hub” that is “an impressive place to be.” With all that said, Armison admitted he had considered moving the firm to a more visible location in the heart of Derby. He also noted the maintenance costs of maintaining such a historic building, as opposed to those of operating out of a modern office complex. However, Armison said, “if we did move, we would make sure something else happens here to preserve” this historic building.

Derby Riverside to be Transformed

Council bosses claim that stirring transformation plans along the River Derwent in Derby would infuse the city’s economy with £50 million.

The “Our City, Our River” idea, the council bosses go on to claim, would lead to the construction of 1,000 houses, cafes, shops, and bars. Part of the transformation plans is to build newer flood defenses to protect land by the river more, which will encourage development.

Martin Rawson, the authority’s deputy leader, described the project’s plans as the city’s biggest such transformation since 2007 when Westfield opened.

Planning officers, owners of the land, and developers interested in the site are discussing final details.

New homes numbering in the hundreds are planned in Chester Green on the site of the former Aida Bliss Factory, offering river frontage for cafes and bars.

Around Stuart Street, Phoenix Street, and Meadow Road (where the former Derby Telegraph offices were located), new flats and houses are proposed. This area is referred to as North Riverside.

Rawson states that opportunities are endless and these prospects will change the city.images

“There is currently a shortage of people living in the city center but these plans will solve that. The river has been undervalued. Psychologically, this will be huge because people’s attitudes to the river will change,” Rawson goes on.

He says the lack of regeneration on that side of River Derwent does not give any reason to cross over it. Rawson believes the transformation plans will give people reason to spend time and money on that side.

The City Council has created a planning application for construction of the new flood defenses. These defenses will have to be in place before any developments can begin.

The planning application is a “hybrid application,” which means both full and outline planning proposals are included. This application is not like other planning applications because it has the principles and details of the scheme are to be decided on at the same time.

Rawson says quality housing has been a challenge for Derby’s citizens and the transformation plans could help with that problem. He further comments, “It’s a very exciting project and will benefit a lot of people with jobs, businesses, and homes” while also creating open public spaces that are important.

A decrease in crime on the Bass Recreation Ground is another expectation. Rawson says that renewal in an area is likely to be followed by lower crime incidents. Such improvement and advancement is important, Rawson states.

Chairman of Derby Civic Society, Alan Grimadell, promotes building design of the highest standards. He says, “It’s positive, bringing developments and rejuvenation into areas which are quite empty.”

Grimadell says Derby’s center is the focus of the city. He says it is exciting that the underused River Derwent is being purposed.

The new civic society president, Don Amott, is a native Derby businessman. He believes renovating that area will not only bring needed cash into the local economy, but also will give the city vivacity.

Amott says, “What great news. I only hope the homes overlook the river and are aimed at the top end of the market.”

Members of the public were invited last weekend to Darley Abbey Village to learn more about the amended plans for the city’s flood defenses.

A previous modification of the plans had occurred after a prior public consultation.

Input from the public was taken for several days on the new plans. That commenting period ended on August 20.

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