Heritage body appeals for ‘at risk’ funds

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A pre-1918 airship hangar, a Victorian pumping station and the remains of a medieval abbey are among 16 historic buildings on an “at risk” register compiled by English Heritage.

The group said on Tuesday that about £400m was needed to prevent 1,235 neglected edifices from crumbling into permanent disrepair. The 16 most urgent cases required £65m.

“We call on the government, and especially the new secretary of state, to work with us to convince public funding bodies of the value of the nation’s heritage,” said Simon Thurley, the chief executive of English Heritage.

Speaking at the launch of the list at Battersea power station, he added: “Buildings like the ones we have identified today deserve a second chance.

“If we fail to act today, the cost of saving these buildings will continue to rise and their decay advance.”

The south London power station and Brighton’s west pier are among the better known sites on the “buildings at risk register”.

Many of the 1,235 buildings are salvageable because private groups could profitably redevelop them as going concerns.

Some could be turned into flats or offices in spite of their listed status.

But this is not true of the 16 most threatened properties, according to English Heritage. These have a “conservation deficit”, which means the cost of repairing them is more than their value once repaired.

The list includes the No 1 shed at RAF Cardington in Eastcotts, Bedfordshire; Crossness Pumping Station, in Abbey Wood, south-east London; and the remains of Old Quarr Abbey, at Ryde on the Isle of Wight.

Mr Thurley described the Victorian pumping station as a “cathedral in cast iron”. It was created by Sir Joseph Bazalgette.

“It is extraordinarily beautiful internally [and comes] from a time when industrial buildings were given the same treatment as an amazing church,” he said.

“But its iron frame is rusting away.”

Also included on the list are Birnbeck Pier at Weston Super Mare, the former Ditherington flax mill in Shrewsbury, Astley Castle in Warwickshire and the mausoleum in the Castle Howard estate in North Yorkshire.

The most underfunded site on the list is Chatterley Whitfield colliery in Stoke-on-Trent, one of Britain’s first main coalfields. English Heritage says the colliery needs £25m of extra funding to avoid dereliction.

“Chatterley is a super-headache,” Mr Thurley said. “If anyone is going to have a chance of understanding this part of our history, the wonderful engineering achievements and buildings of the time, they will want to see something like Chatterley restored.”

English Heritage had allocated just £4.4m to buildings at risk last year, barely
more than 1 per cent of the total conservation deficit on the register, he added.

Yet the group claims that in recent years it has thrown “every resource at its disposal” at Britain’s threatened buildings.

Since 1999 English Heritage has removed 872 buildings from the list.

“But, increasingly, year on year, we are left with the hard rump of buildings which need large amounts of public subsidy,” Mr Thurley said.

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