Agenda item

The Built Environment - Protection & Listing (Agenda item 6)

Position Statement of the Historic Buildings Officer. 


Members are asked to note that the Historic Buildings Officer will be attending the meeting to discuss this item further. 


Andrew Gayton, the Historic Buildings Officer, had been invited to the meeting to report on the protection and listing of the built environment.


The Chairman stated that the reason he had brought this item to the meeting was because he and the Members of the Panel had very little knowledge of the processes involved with listing and the protection of buildings in the area.  He asked whether a register of all the Listed Buildings in the area could be devised for Members’ information.


One of the buildings that the Chairman wished to have an update on was Shadwell Park near Brettenham,Thetford.


The Historic Buildings Officer advised that Shadwell Park, which was seen to be a major country house of its time, had been woefully neglected for many years. The 18th century building, originally in three bays, had been extended over time and was now mainly of 19th century architecture.  The Victorian Society had stated that this country house fully deserved to be placed in amongst the top ten listed buildings in England.  The Historic Buildings Officer explained that the building had been neglected and allowed to deteriorate over the years and was no longer weather tight; Shadwell Park had dry rot and, if left, faced serious structural risk.


The owner had carried out a programme of dry rot treatments which, in the opinion of the Historic Buildings Officer, had been a pointless exercise as the ingress of water had not been stopped.  One of the major problems with the building was the roof; the roofscape, in total, contained 12 different roof configurations.  The owner had since been persuaded to re-roof the house to eliminate the dry rot and had until July 2008 to carry out the work otherwise further action would be taken. 


A Member asked whether English Heritage had been involved.  The Panel was advised that English Heritage had expressed the view that it might consider an application if the owner submitted one.


Members felt that it was imperative that the building was conserved and felt frustrated that no-one seemed to be doing anything about it.  The Historic Buildings Officer stressed that Shadwell Park had been on the “saved” site for many years and that he had even been approached by a number of interested parties to buy the building.  He had tried everything in his power to persuade the owner to sell but to no avail.  The Chairman suggested a Compulsory Purchase Order on the building together with 10/15 acres of land.  The Council could then sell it on to an interested party who would be willing to spend money on the building and restore it to its former glory.  Members were advised that to go down this route would take many years, and would prove a very expensive and complicated exercise. 


The Chairman felt that the Council was not doing enough to protect this building and recommended that immediate enforcement action be taken and that a Compulsory Purchase Order be authorised, with no further negotiations, unless the owner offered something tangible.  The Panel was reminded that the owner had assured the Council that the remedial works to the building would be carried out and that it would be unreasonable to go down the CPO route at this time.  In the interim, the District Valuer could be instructed to look into having the property valued. 


In response to a question concerning the cost of reinstating Shadwell Park to its former glory, Members were advised that it had been five years since the last costing was carried out and the cost then had been estimated at £8m.  Today’s valuation could be in the region of £12m plus the purchase price.


The Chairman had also requested an update on the Guildhall, Dereham.


The Historic Buildings Officer advised that, following further negotiations, the owner had finally appointed an architect to prepare the Listed Building applications.  The owner would not be able to sell the converted building until these permissions had been agreed.  The Health and Safety Executive had also been called in and had asked for a quarterly update from the Historic Buildings Officer.


As far as ‘local lists’ for Members were concerned, the Panel was informed that the Historic Buildings Officer had recently completed a district wide survey of all Listed Buildings; this was an update of the 1984/86 survey that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) had previously compiled.   No-one else had carried out a survey of that level. The DCMS had been asked to acknowledge Breckland’s updated list but had refused as it had not been compiled by themselves.


What the Council had now was a revised unofficial list, together with photographs, that could be utilised for internal use.  The downside to this review had been that it had highlighted the severity of buildings in this area.  Out of 1600 buildings in Breckland, 200 of them were now classed as ‘buildings at risk’ which, unfortunately, was the largest number in the country.


The Historic Buildings Officer then provided Members with information concerning the lack of grant funding. 


A Member felt that it would be useful to have details of Listed Buildings in his Ward and of buildings that were not listed but had historic value. 


The criteria for a building to be listed and protected were explained.   Generally, all buildings built before 1700 were listed, most dated from 1700 - 1840 were also listed, although greater selection was necessary. After 1840, due to the increased stock of buildings, only buildings of definite quality had been listed. Buildings of less than 30 years old were not listed unless they were of outstanding quality and under threat; buildings less than 10 years old could not be listed.


In addition, unlisted buildings within conservation areas were provided with an element of protection as they could not be demolished unless formally approved. Unfortunately, following changes in the legislation from 1997, damaging interventions to traditional buildings - such as the insertion of inappropriate window joinery – could not be controlled unless permitted development rights were to be removed.


In concluding the discussions on this matter, it was




1)      the Overview and Scrutiny Commission be asked to take into account the Panel’s views above, and recommend to Cabinet that investigations be made on the best way forward to protect Shadwell Park from further structural damage; and


2)      a list be compiled of all Listed Buildings in the area for all Members of the Council for information.

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