Following yet another major blaze at a listed building, pressure mounts on councils to do more to protect our precious historic buildings. The Victorian Society warns councils that we face losing many more important buildings to arson unless urgent action is taken to secure them properly.
In the early hours of 26thMay, an inferno tore through the Grade II-listed Great Northern Railway Warehouse in Derbyshire, causing the roof to cave in – destroying irreplaceable parts of our heritage. The cause of the fire has now been confirmed as arson. The warehouse has been left derelict for over 50 years, and was at tipping point back in 2017 when it featured on our Top 10 Endangered Buildings list. It was built in 1877 by Kirk and Randall as part of the Great Northern Railway at Friargate Station
This blaze comes just months after the Grade II-listed Tolly Cobbold Brewery in Ipswich, which featured on our 2015 Top 10 Most Endangered Buildings list, suffered a major arson attack, resulting in serious damage.
Last April, an irreplaceable part of Suffolk's heritage, the Fison’s Factory also in Ipswich, burnt to the ground following an arson attack. Featured in our 2017 Top 10 Endangered Buildings campaign, the factory served as an example of Suffolk’s thriving industrial past. As with Tolly Cobbold, the site had been due to be developed, by Paper Mill Lane Properties, who had received warnings from Mid Suffolk District Council to improve security at the site – clearly this was not enough.
Councils have powers under the 1982 Local Government Act to secure vacant and insecure buildings, but these powers are generally underused, resulting in hazards to people and property and an unnecessary loss of heritage. Christopher Costelloe, Director of the Victorian Society, commented: “Many historic buildings go through periods when they are derelict, because of the complexities of finding new uses. They remain hugely important to local culture and identity. It is vital that councils use their powers to ensure that they are kept secure, so that these irreplaceable buildings can find new uses and help bring prosperity to their communities, rather than becoming sad additions to the arson statistics.”