English Heritage has launched the Heritage at Risk Register 2012. It found that in the South East 97 Grade I and II* buildings, 237 scheduled monuments, 62 places of worship, 24 registered parks and gardens, one battlefield, 62 conservation areas and four protected wrecks are at risk.
English Heritage also announced an ambitious programme to find out how the one major element of our heritage not already covered by the Register - the nation's Grade II listed buildings - can be assessed. Adding the South East's Grade II buildings found to be at risk from neglect, decay or dereliction to the national At Risk Register would be a first step to securing their future.
There are some 70,650 Grade II buildings in the South East, accounting for 92.6% of all listed buildings in the region. Beautiful, historic or architecturally special, they are the houses, cottages, shops, inns, offices, schools, town halls, libraries, farms, and other special buildings that shape the character of the South East.
Dr Andy Brown, Planning Director for the South East, said: "Grade II listed buildings are the bulk of the South East's heritage assets. When one of them is lost, it's as though someone has rubbed out a bit of the past - something that made your street or your village special will have gone.
"Nearly 71,000 Grade II buildings is not a large number in relation to all the buildings in the South East but it is too many for English Heritage to survey on its own. We need help from local authorities, national parks, heritage and community groups to find the most efficient way of conducting such an exercise.
"We will fund between nine and fifteen pilot surveys around the country. For local authorities hard-pressed by cuts or other groups who come forward to work with us, this means money to find out which buildings most need their scarce resources. It will help all parties involved, including the Heritage Lottery Fund and other grant-givers, to get rescues underway where nothing has been happening for years.
Dr Brown continued: "This isn't just bean-counting. It really works. In London, Grade II buildings have been included on the Heritage at Risk Register since 1991 and 96% of them have been saved since then. The Heritage at Risk Register really helps us and our partners to prioritise for action and make the case for funding to find solutions."
Dr Andy Brown concluded: "English Heritage launched the first ever Buildings at Risk Register in 1998 and has expanded it over the years to include archaeology, monuments, gardens, conservation areas, places of worship, wrecks and battlefields. Now it's time to plug the one remaining gap. It's going to take a tremendous team effort but as the Olympics have shown, that's something this country is good at."
The South East has just 1.7% of its highly graded buildings at risk, compared to 3% nationally. We anticipate that between at least 3 - 7% of Grade II buildings will be found to be at risk once the pilots get underway. This would amount to anywhere between 2,000 and 5,000 additional buildings at risk on the South East Register**.
Some examples of Grade II buildings in the South East that would probably feature on the Heritage at Risk Register are:
Frank James Hospital, Isle of Wight
The Frank James Memorial Hospital, of 1903, has suffered from years of indecision and neglect. Details of its re-use as residential property have now been agreed, years after the initial Urgent Works action on the part of the Isle of Wight Council. It has been a hard slog and local people are understandably concerned that nothing appears to be happening. The case has remained in the public eye on the Isle of Wight and it is hoped it will now be resolved.
King's Meadow Baths, Reading
The King's Meadow swimming pool is a very fine example of a complete Edwardian Lido. It opened in 1903 as an open air swimming pool for ladies. It was listed in 2004 following a local campaign. It is in a very poor condition today. Whilst owned by the Council, a very dedicated local friends group have been given the opportunity to develop a scheme to restore the pool for public use, rather than allow development on the land.
Hook Norton Brewery, Hook Norton, Oxfordshire
Hook Norton Brewery is the last independent brewery in North Oxfordshire, founded in 1849. The brewing plant is a traditional Victorian 'tower' brewery, in which all the stages of the brewing process flow logically from floor to floor. The chimney on the main brew house is now redundant and seriously at risk. It will hopefully be rebuilt or repaired with English Heritage help.
The Astoria Theatre, Brighton
The Astoria Theatre in Brighton is a Grade II listed former cinema, built in 1933 to the designs of Edward Albert Stone, a specialist theatre and cinema architect. It was the flagship of the Astoria chain of cinemas outside of London. It has been empty since 1997 and in a deteriorating condition. Every effort has been made by the council and English Heritage to seek a viable future for this redundant building, including a range of alternative uses and transfer of ownership to a trust, but its future remains uncertain.
The Heritage at Risk Register 2012 reveals that over the last year, 12 Grade I and II* buildings have been rescued and their future's secured, including Grade II* listed New Inn Farmhouse in Stowe, Buckinghamshire. A £9 million restoration project over the past two years has seen the building restored as a visitor centre at the entrance to Stowe Landscape Gardens, managed by the National Trust. The visitor centre should now help to generate income that can be directed towards tackling several listed garden features that remain at risk.
Some 5 buildings have been added to the At Risk Register, including the Grade II* listed Scenic Railway at Dreamland, Margate. Britain's oldest surviving rollercoaster is currently derelict following a major fire in 2008. However, Thanet District Council has been successful in a Compulsory Purchase Order and plans, with the help of partners, to turn the site into a heritage amusement park in the near future.
Nationally, 3% of Grade I and II* buildings are at risk. In the South East, this falls to 1.7%.
The 12 buildings removed from the Heritage at Risk Register are:
- New Inn Farmhouse in Stowe, Buckinghamshire
- Church of St Helen, St Helens, Hastings, East Sussex
- North Barrack Block at St George Barracks, Gosport, Hampshire
- St Peters Church (ruin), Lainston Park, Sparsholt, Hampshire
- Wye Undercroft, Wye with Hinxhill, Kent
- Provender, Provender Lane, Norton, Kent
- The Shell Grotto, Grotto Hill, Margate, Kent
- Osney Abbey, Mill Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire
- St Marys House, Bramber, West Sussex
- Chapter house and remains of kitchen Hardham Priory, Horsham, West Sussex
- The Dome Cinema, Worthing, West Sussex
- Shoreham Old Fort, Adur, West Sussex
The 5 buildings added to the Heritage at Risk Register are:
- The Scenic Railway at Dreamland, Margate, Kent
- Icehouse 140m west of Coombe Bank, South Downs, East Sussex
- Dovecote 160m north-west of Coombe Place, South Downs, East Sussex
- Milton Manor House, High Street, Milton, Oxfordshire
- St David's Hall, Portland Place, Reading
** Calculated by assessing three representative local authority Building at Risk registers in the South East.