The list of the top 10 Buildings at Risk published in 2019 shows that even outstanding listed buildings face demolition, if they happen to be C20th ones. The list shows how our once highly regarded historic building protection system is failing, leading to an outrageous waste of money and environmental impact, as well as the loss of some exceptional architecture.
Three buildings on the list, the Whitehall office block Richmond House, Harlech Theatre in Wales and the former All Saints’ Pastoral Centre and Chapel in Colney, Hertfordshire, are all Grade II* listed, a category of architecturally important buildings which make up only 5.8% of all listed buildings in the country. A fourth building, the former Birds’ Eye HQ in Walton, Surrey, is Grade II listed.
Catherine Croft, Director of the Twentieth Century Society, said: “Once England was seen to be leading the way in the conservation of historic buildings, now the system is impotent and disastrously under resourced. Whilst listing used to protect our best historic buildings for posterity, today gaining consent to demolish them is becoming just a minor inconvenience for determined developers. We must not allow quick profit, or spurious “public benefit” arguments to outweigh the loss of buildings which future generations should be allowed to cherish and enjoy. Once demolished these buildings, and the stories they tell, are lost forever.”
Other buildings in the top 10 Buildings at Risk List, which the Society publishes every two years, include a power station, a cinema, civic centre, library conservation centre, social housing and DIY superstore.
Keeping a list like this helps the charity demonstrate how severe the threat is to some of the very best examples of the architecture of our period, and ensures that some of its longest and most intractable cases do not fade from view. It also serves to underline the fact that it is constantly campaigning for buildings of many different styles and dates, and provides a context for individual examples.
A positive solution has been found for only two of the 10 building on the Buildings at Risk List 2017, High Cross House in Dartington and the police station threatened by the skyscraper Manchester city centre development. The Manchester synagogue, Dunelm House, in Durham, Central Hill and Holborn Library, both in London, the Elephant Swimming Baths, in Coventry, St. Leonard’s Church, in Hastings, and murals at two former BHS stores in Stockport and Hull are still at risk. Sadly 60 Hornton Street in West Kensington has been demolished and the Cumberbatch North & South student accommodation buildings in Oxford are currently being demolished.
Catherine added: “Many of these buildings could easily be adapted for new uses, for instance the Homebase store would make an excellent supermarket, and the Birds Eye Headquarters could be converted for residential use. In many instances its purely financial pressures, and the potential to make more money by building higher and more densely on the sites which is driving their destruction. All 10 of these buildings deserve to survive to make our lives richer and more interesting, the positive benefits of keeping them are immeasurable.“