£65 Million Needed To Save Top Buildings At Risk Says English Heritage

By Caroline Lewis | 24 July 2007
photo of a colossal aircraft hangar in need of repair

No.1 Shed at RAF Cardington. © English Heritage

English Heritage launches its Buildings at Risk (BAR) Register for 2007 on Jul 24, outlining a string of Grade I and II listed structures which face dereliction without huge investments. Sixteen buildings are highlighted, which are in need of £65 million worth of repairs.

One site alone – the Chatterley Whitfield Colliery near Sheffield – would require £25 million to bring it back from the brink. Yet English Heritage, described by its Chief Executive Simon Thurley as the “social services of the heritage world”, faces cutbacks.

“What makes these buildings expensive and difficult to revive is a combination of factors,” he explained at the launch at Battersea Power Station, “such as their vast scale, the fact that part of the site is often a structure which can only be preserved but will never have a beneficial use, such as the pit-head winding gear at Chatterley Whitfield Colliery, and in some cases their inaccessibility.”

Battersea Power Station has been on the BAR Register since 1991. English Heritage is working with owners Treasury Holdings on plans and maintenance of the site.

Mr Thurley went on to lament that while the rising property market makes repairing some buildings a good economic prospect, others have a bleak future since the returns on them would never exceed the costs of repair – what is known as a ‘conservation deficit’.

photo of a decaying boiler room with arched windows and metal stairs

Main boiler room, Crossness Pumping Station. © English Heritage

As a result, public funding is needed to save these edifices of our heritage in this country.

“These are some of the nation’s most monumental sites and buildings, redolent with history and human interest, beauty and grace,” said Simon Thurley in justification.

He spoke with regret about the reduction in English Heritage’s government funding, and the fact that the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) only gives grants to public buildings, for which there is stiff competition which will only increase in future.

In the face of this, building costs continue to rise. In the last year, the £4.4 million that English Heritage threw at buildings at risk only covered 1.3 per cent of the estimated total conservation deficit of all the buildings on the Register. However, by measure of success, 872 BAR entries have been taken off the Register since 1999 with the help of English Heritage.

In the last year, the futures of 88 needy buildings were secured, removing their ‘at risk’ status, but 52 more were identified as at risk through neglect or decay. There are 1,235 entries on the 2007 Register, representing about 1 in 30 Grade I and II* listed buildings in England. A small percentage of these are economic to repair without subsidy, and over 40 per cent of them are capable of beneficial use.

Photo of rusting ironwork spandrels

Tynemouth Station © English Heritage

Among those on the 2007 Register are RAF Cardington’s No. 1 Shed in Bedfordshire, Crossness Pumping Station in London and Tynemouth Station in Tyne and Wear.

Cardington No. 1 Shed is a colossal Grade II* airship hangar. It is the only one dating to pre-1918 that survives in situ in Europe, and is in very bad condition, with a conservation deficit of £5 million.

Renowned Victorian engineer Joseph Bazalgette’s Crossness Pumping Station was opened in 1865 in Bexley. Now run by volunteers, the Grade I structure retains four enormous James Watt and Co beam engines. It needs £3 million in repairs.

Tynemouth Station (Grade II*), dating to 1882, has rusting ironwork canopies and spandrels, and is part made of asbestos. It needs a cash injection of £2 million.

Other buildings in the highlighted 16 are Ditherington Flax Mill (Shropshire), Soho Foundry (West Midlands), Birnbeck Pier (Avon), Royal Insurance Building (Liverpool), Astley Castle (Warwickshire), remains of Old Quarr Abbey (Isle of Wight), The Large Mansion, Gunnersbury Park House (London), Abbey Mills Pumping Station (London), Bank Hall (Lancashire), The Mausoleum (Ryedale), The Western Heights fortifications (Dover) and Wicker Arch railway viaduct (Sheffield).

See the complete Buildings at Risk Register online at www.english-heritage.org.uk/bar. The total subsidy needed to repair buildings on the Register is in the order of £400 million.

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