Buildings at risk announced

Two Victorian sewage pumping stations, Europe?s only pre-WW1 airship hanger and the world?s first iron-framed building in Shrewsbury have been marked by English Heritage in the 2007 Buildings at Risk Register.

The nation?s most costly and problematic buildings at risk need a total of £65million to secure their future.

There is some positive news, however. The rising property prices are, in some cases, encouraging developers to restore listed buildings and bring them back into use, are resulting in far more threatened sites being saved. Almost half the buildings deemed to be at risk in 1999 have been restored and removed from the list.

Chief Executive of English Heritage Simon Thurley says that often the scale of the structure and, in some cases, inaccessibility makes them expensive and difficult to revive.

Mr Thurley explains: ?While the rising property market is making some buildings economic to repair, the outlook for historic buildings where the cost of repair is more than their value once repaired, is increasingly bleak. This is what we call the “conservation deficit”. Even though many of these buildings are capable of being restored to some form of beneficial use, including housing, it does not necessarily make them economic propositions for developers, organisations or individuals. In consequence, and because of their outstanding national importance, they each need a degree of public subsidy ranging from £1m to £25 million.?

English Heritage regards itself as the ?social services of the heritage world?. Government funding to the body has reduced so much that the purchasing power of their grants has shrunk by £19.6million in the past six years.

Last year English Heritage offered £4.4 million to buildings at risk but this covered only 1.3% of the estimated total conservation deficit of all the buildings on the Register. Meanwhile building costs rose by approximately 4.4%.

Mr Thurley continues: ?The 2007 Register contains 1,235 entries. Over the past year 88 entries have been removed and 52 have been added continuing the overall trend of a steady fall in the number of buildings at risk. But increasingly, year on year, we are left with the hard rump of buildings which need large amounts of public subsidy. The total subsidy needed to bring all the buildings on the Register into repair remains, as it did in 1999, at around £400 million, but £65 million of that total relates to the entries we have highlighted today. ?