From Our Swindon Correspondent. The reason listed buildings fall apart is because they’re listed, see?
Griff Rhys Jones, the president of the Victorian Society, has urged councils to protect derelict buildings that are of huge importance to Britain’s industrial heritage. His intervention followed a surge in vandalism at such sites, triggered in part by the new-found popularity of exploring abandoned buildings.
Last month it emerged that Shotton steelworks in north Wales – one of the society’s 10 most endangered buildings in 2018 – had been badly damaged. According to reports, vandals had knocked down partition walls, destroyed ornate panelling, and kicked in walls. Several fires had been lit and tiles thrown off the roof.
The Grade II-listed Tolly Cobbold brewery in Ipswich, which featured in the society’s 2015 top 10, suffered a major blaze last month. Two men in their 20s and a woman in her 40s were arrested on suspicion of arson and have been released pending further inquiries.
And last April, the Fisons factory in Bramford, described as “an irreplaceable part of Suffolk’s heritage” and featured in the society’s 2017 top 10, was burned to the ground by arsonists.
The vandalised buildings have often lain empty for years while their owners try to balance their plans for redevelopment against conservation restrictions.
Let’s rephrase that last point: the owners have put plans into English Heritage, a government bureaucracy. English Heritage are extremely demanding, frequently beyond the point where development is financially viable. Developers scrap projects because they’ll lose money on them. They give it a few tries and eventually sell it to someone else who tries it and fails again.
The society says councils warn owners to improve security, but action is rarely taken. “Buildings under threat need strong security,” Rhys Jones said. “They need maintenance. They need alarms and lighting. Most of all they need concerted imagination and help to be brought back into the community quickly.”
Action is rarely taken because for many owners of listed buildings, after they’ve tried developing what’s there, the best thing that can happen is that a bunch of scrotes comes in with paraffin and matches and burns it to the ground. Because once it’s burnt to the ground, you’ve got a site without a listed building on it and no need to deal with English Heritage. They have zero incentive to install an alarm system and protect the building.
The listing process is destructive in this country, utterly warped. We’ve always cannibalised buildings throughout history. Corn Exchanges becoming concert halls, extra bits stuck on Hampton Court. People got in and changed them. It is absurd that such buildings should be preserved in aspic, like they never were in their history.