Historic building which housed railway science labs ready to welcome tenants
A HISTORIC purpose-built science laboratory which has been empty for more than six months is on the verge of securing new tenants.
The Faraday and Hartley House buildings are in the Rail Technology Centre business park in London Road, Derby.
The buildings used to form the base for Scientifics Ltd, carrying out research in to rail sciences.
It was opened in December 1935 by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway as the Scientific Research Laboratory, which was formed by the vice-president and director, Sir Harold Hartley.
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Following the privatisation of British Rail and the sale of the research division to AEA Technology, the scientific section was separately privatised to form Scientifics Ltd.
They vacated the building last year when staff were transferred to what was the National Coal Board Research Establishment at Bretby.
It sparked concerns about the future of the buildings, leading to several attempts by rail groups to get it listed.
Graham Wild, a member of the East Midlands Railway and Canal Historical Society, said the main reason for wanting it listed was because it was the first steel-framed building to enable internal walls to be moved according to requirements.
He said: "We are concerned about the building and we have tried to get it listed but they won't list it because it has had too many alterations. I think it was mainly to do with the windows.
"We wanted it listed because it was the first scientific establishment built for scientific purposes and it has got a lot of architecture which is worth preserving."
Jim Ward worked as a scientific officer in the buildings in the 1960s after research work from Calvert Street was moved there.
He said it should be preserved and brought back into use.
"The buildings were designed to be flexible and so it proved when they altered from being an engineering research laboratory to housing a group of chemists and physicists in the early 1960s," he said.
"Then other subsequent changes were made.
"They could be used for all sorts of things, for light industrial uses or offices.
"They were made to be flexible."
Since being vacated, there have been concerns that its lack of listed status would mean a company would come in and demolish elements of the buildings.
But Innes England, commercial property consultants who are marketing the buildings, said the companies with which it had been in discussions would want to retain the buildings.
Nick Hosking, director at Innes England's Derby office, said: "We are considering what we are doing with the buildings and are in dialogue with a couple of people, but we haven't agreed anything and no planning applications have been put in.
"The occupier we are talking to, if we do the deal, would certainly keep the existing laboratories.
"While the buildings look pretty dreadful externally, internally the place is quite nice and we are talking to a couple of potential occupiers – one very seriously."