Skip hire firm uses nationally historic former glassworks site for processing rubbish
National architecture charity the Victorian Society has included Chance's Glassworks in Smethwick on its 2017 Top 10 Endangered Buildings list. The Top 10 campaign, now in its tenth year, recognises the plight of endangered Victorian and Edwardian buildings in England and Wales in the hope that increased publicity will help save them.
Chance's Glassworks (Grade II, 1824, The Chance Brothers) is arguably one of the most important industrial sites in the West Midlands region; the factory produced glass for Crystal Palace and the great Exhibition in 1851, the clock faces of Big Ben as well as other glass in the Palace of Westminster, and some 2300 Victorian lighthouse lanterns around the world and so its fame could be said to be international. The site is designated as a scheduled ancient monument and is therefore recognised by Historic England to be of national significance. On site there are eight Victorian grade II listed buildings, including the landmark 'Seven Storey' of 1847, but the current poor condition of both the site and listed buildings is reflected in its inclusion by Historic England in the 'Heritage at Risk' Register.
Much of the site in North West Smethwick is held on a long lease by a skip hire company, a totally unsuitable use for a nationally historic site, made worse by the fact that the tenant has failed to comply with most of the original planning conditions imposed in 2011. A permanent shelter has been erected on site without consent, rubbish is burned on site, and large vehicles regularly access and park which risks causing damage to the historic fabric. An appeal by the tenants against Sandwell Council's enforcement against breaches of planning control was dismissed in May and the skip hire business must cease on site by the end of six months from that date. However, all the grade II listed buildings (including those in separate leasehold arrangements, such as the Seven Storey) are in very poor condition, with one of the listed buildings adjacent to the canal now at risk of collapse.
Tim Bridges, Caseworker at the Victorian Society, said: "It is important that a more sensitive approach be adopted to preserve the significant heritage of this scheduled ancient monument with its collection of listed buildings. This opportunity is offered by Chance's Heritage Trust, but the challenges are enormous, time is of the essence and currently the site is extremely vulnerable to ongoing deterioration and neglect, wilful damage and vandalism."