June 18 2013 Latest news:
By Emma Brennan
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
HERITAGE houses in Suffolk that are no longer deemed ‘fit for purpose’ are becoming the latest casualties of council budget cuts, property experts fear.
ONE historic building with an uncertain future is the former county council headquarters in Ipswich.
County Hall ceased to be the heart of local government in Suffolk when Endeavour House opened in 2004.
The former headquarters in St Helen’s Street in Ipswich has been empty since then.
The Victorian building is Grade II listed – and the listing extends to its internal layout including the former council chamber, which was built in the early 20th Century, and the former court room. That was the scene of the building’s one moment in the international spotlight, when Wallis Simpson was divorced in 1936 – paving the way for the Abdication Crisis.
While other county council sites have been redeveloped, County Hall has found no new use and photographs taken last month show it has been vandalised and become home to rough-sleepers and drug users over recent months.
Council-owned properties across the county that were previously used as community amenities are being sold, developed or left to deteriorate, as modern purpose-built facilities take their place.
Babergh has just unveiled its plans to convert the derelict Grade II listed East House in Hadleigh into flats. Meanwhile, English Heritage has told of its concern for listed buildings across Suffolk that are “at risk from neglect or decay”.
Babergh’s 17th-Century East House was leased by Suffolk County Council as a venue for adult education classes, but was abandoned by the county because of budget cuts in 2006 and has been left to deteriorate ever since.
The property is one of three council-owned heritage houses in Suffolk currently earmarked for sale or development. Babergh’s Belle Vue House in Sudbury could eventually be sold and the county-owned Belstead House in Ipswich, which is used for residential adult education courses, was put on the market earlier this year for £1.5million.
English Heritage historic buildings inspector for Suffolk, Clare Campbell, said: “Listed buildings that are at risk from neglect or decay are clearly a cause for concern. We understand that many local authorities’ budgets are increasingly tight and they are finding it difficult to look after the buildings in their care.
“However, we believe the best way to secure the future of a building is to find an appropriate re-use for it.”
She said conservation should be about seeking the best viable use for an ‘at-risk’ building, which would fund future maintenance and cause the least harm to its historic and architectural significance.
“Where proposals would result in harm to the significance of an historic building, these would need to be weighed against the benefits to the local community and this would normally be a matter for the local authority to take a decision on, after considering English Heritage’s advice,” Ms Campbell added.
Across Suffolk, there are more than 12,500 listed buildings and the county council keeps a register of all those that are deemed at risk through neglect and decay. There are currently about 113 properties on the list, with 18 of those in the Babergh district. East House is not on the list.
A spokesman for Babergh said the council hoped to convert East House into residential units, with a small number of detached properties at the rear. All of the relevant heritage bodies had been consulted over the plans, he said.
Babergh councillor for Hadleigh, Brian Riley said while it would be sad to lose East House, the community had to move with the times.
“Hadleigh has always had these problems with community buildings, because they are very old buildings that have never been suitable for their purpose.” he said.
A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said the authority had received three bids on Belstead House, adding: “The county council will now begin assessing each bid’s merit.”