Fisons: What is next for one of Suffolk’s most historic buildings?
The former Fisons building in Bramford has hit the headlines on a number of occasions in 2018 - but not for the right reasons.
The site, which has been vacant for a number of years, was hit by fire twice this year and is now the subject of court action against its developers, Paper Mill Lane Properties.
Having been listed as one of the top 10 endangered buildings by the Victorian Society in 2017, concerns had been high about its future and security for some time.
However, in April these fears were heightened when two fires broke out in less than a month.
The first broke out at a security shed on the site. At the time Suffolk Fire and Rescue believed the fire had been caused deliberately.
A second fire followed a short time later at a larger building on the south side of the site. Firefighters said they had “worked extremely hard under challenging conditions to contain the fire”.
On both occasions, Suffolk Fire and Rescue was forced to send a number of vehicles to deal with the fire with police putting road closures in place.
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After the fires, Mid Suffolk District Council said it would be working with the site’s owners to protect it.
“Firefighters should not have to be put at risk due to avoidable incidents,” said cabinet member for the environment David Burn.
Allegations of fly-tipping and unauthorised access at the site have been major concerns for those desperate to protect the site’s future.
In July Mid Suffolk District Council said it was pursuing options and last month the council confirmed that it would be taking Paper Mill Lane Properties to court next month under the Building Act over what it described as the building’s “neglect”.
“We have repeatedly made clear to the owners what their responsibilities are, but sadly the works needed have not been carried out,” said Mr Burn.
The plight of the building has also been monitored carefully by those living in Bramford.
Resident Kelvin Dakin is the man behind the Save the Northern Warehouse group, which fights to keep the listed structure safe. He has followed every development at the site throughout the year and is concerned at the lack of change.
“It remains to be seen what the outcome of the court case will be,” said Mr Dakin.
“Hopefully it will enable the council to take some positive action at last to help secure the future of the listed part of the building and eventually lead to a long term solution for the use of the site.
“It could be providing the much needed housing that we are told we desperately need. Unfortunately the Grade II Listed building, that was the original factory of Joseph Fison - built in 1866, faces another winter of decay and neglect and we can only hope that action will be swift.”
The Victorian Society is also concerned that despite highlighting problems at the site, nothing has been done so far.
Tom Taylor, conservation adviser for the Victorian Society, said: “Sadly, the situation with the former Fisons site in Bramford is no better from when it featured on our Top 10 Endangered Buildings list last year – in fact it has further deteriorated, and is therefore at a critical point.
“Urgent action is needed, firstly to further secure the building as the several fires it has suffered over the years suggest this is currently insufficient, and a development plan must be sought without delay.
“We cannot stress how little time these buildings have left, and urge the council to make it a top heritage priority for protection and regeneration.”
What will happen in 2019 to the building?
The developers and council return to court at the start of January to consider the developers responsibilities and whether more should have been done to secure the building.
If the council wins the case, then the developers will have to take action to make the site safe.
Failure to do so would become a criminal offence.
As for the building itself, in its most recent statement the council described it as being “dangerously unsafe” with residents still concerned about the amount of fly-tipping taking place at the site.
Paper Mill Lane Properties, which is based in Peterborough, has been contacted on multiple occasions by this newspaper but have not given comment.
The developers and council will return to Suffolk Magistrates’ Court on January 8 in a case which could define the site’s future.