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LISTED BUILDINGS 

Historic England provides the following information on their website when it comes to Listed Buildings.

“Listing marks and celebrates a building's special architectural and historic interest, and also brings it under the consideration of the planning system, so that it can be protected for future generations.

The older a building is, and the fewer the surviving examples of its kind, the more likely it is to be listed.

The general principles are that all buildings built before 1700 which survive in anything like their original condition are likely to be listed, as are most buildings built between 1700 and 1850. Particularly careful selection is required for buildings from the period after 1945. Buildings less than 30 years old are not normally considered to be of special architectural or historic interest because they have yet to stand the test of time.”

Building Conservation’s website make a very ‘to the point’ issue with listed buildings: (www.buildingconservation.com)

“Historic building and conservation areas legislation provides effective control over development and demolition, but there is no legal requirement for a building to be maintained. There’s a tipping point in neglect where the rate of deterioration begins to accelerate rapidly, and the cost of repairs starts to escalate.”
Although there is no requirement for an owner to maintain a listed building, local authorities do have powers at their disposal to enforce repairs under heritage protection legislation. These include urgent works notices, repairs notices and, if all else fails, compulsory purchase orders.
 
The local authority can pay for and carry out the works which are necessary for the preservation of a listed building and recover the cost by serving a notice on the owner.
 
Of course, in either case, owners may not have the resources to pay for the work, so there is always some risk that the cost to the council is far higher than the cost of the work itself, once litigation costs are taken into account."

STOPPING THE ROT 

Historic England have set out a detailed documentation on Stopping the Rot, A guide to enforcement action to save historic buildings which can be found on the below link.

Historic England states: "The owners of listed buildings are under no legal obligation to maintain their property in a good state of repair; even though it is in their interests to do so. When negotiation fails, local authorities have a range of statutory enforcement powers at their disposal including section 215 Notices, Urgent Works Notices, Repairs Notices and other statutory enforcement tools and powers under the various Housing, Planning and Building Acts, to secure the future of historic buildings."

At their lightest level they involve no more than the serving of formal warnings of action, but in the last resort they can lead to enforced repairs or compulsory purchase. Deciding which of the available powers to employ and in what combination will always depend on individual circumstances and the professional judgment of the local planning authority. However, there is much that can usefully be learnt from the practical experience gained by other local authorities who have pursued enforcement actions.

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From the above information, if Liverpool City Council have acted properly and to the letter, then for most, if not all, abandoned listed buildings, there should be historical information on when a section 54 and a section 48 notice took place.

During my campaign on Sandfield Tower, I was advised that in November 2019, a spending freeze took hold on Liverpool City Council. They had to reduce their overheads and costs. They deemed that Sandfield Tower did not fall in to an essential spend category and this no further action would be taken at that time. Fast forward to April 2022 and I have been advised that the City Council is still in a spending freeze.
 
So, what has happened to our heritage in this time? If the City Council are in a spending freeze and do not see that listed buildings are not in an essential spend category then have all section 54 and section 48 notices now stopped? Have the owners of these abandoned buildings been ‘let off the hook’ by the spending freeze?

THE SOLUTION

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It is very easy to place a blame on someone and accuse them of not doing anything when it comes to abandoned buildings. Because when someone takes the blame, it must be their fault. Or perhaps we don’t blame the City Council but we blame the owners instead?

An interesting story appeared in the local newspaper that featured a story on the Grade 1 listed Woolton Hall. It went on to state the following:
The owner expressed anger at the City Council and blamed planning department issues that had delayed development on the site. The Council responded and stated that they are ‘in talks with the architects’.

The full story can be found here: 

So what is the solution? Well, before we look at the solution, we need to look at the issues first.

A local building, listed, is falling into disrepair. It is getting to the stage where it is attracting the attention of urban explorers. They have deemed it important enough to risk breaking in for those all-important images and thus the building is damaged even further by gaining access.
(Note, there are many Urban Explorers who do a sterling job of getting access to a building without any damage, walk in, take images, respect the place and walk out – these urban explorers must be congratulated for risking their own health to provide interior images of abandoned buildings so we can see the issues for ourselves).

The building then becomes boarded up and more or less left to rot. As with many abandoned buildings, fires start and either the building is partially fire damaged, or in some cases, completely ruined by fire and must be demolished (as in the case of Thingwall House, Knotty Ash).
At what stage does the City Council or local authority inspect these historical buildings? Are they legally obliged to? I don’t think they are. What then happens is a ‘chase your own tail’ where the following happens.

A local historian has an interest in the building (take Sandfield Tower for example) and spends time and resources in mugging up on the history of the building (of which there is very little) and then spends a great deal of time putting together an e-mail asking the City Council on the history of the building, who owns it, what It was used for, why it is abandoned, whether it is up for sale or in need of restoration. And then waits for the reply. The reply may not happen so the local historian contacts the local ward councillors. And again, may not receive a reply. So they then have to send the same e-mail to the City Council but ask the same questions under the Freedom of Information Act. Months later, the City Council respond to the points raised.

However, by that time the building has been further fire damaged, broken in to again and left wide open for anyone to come in. And thus, the ‘chase your tail’ starts again with another e-mail. The local historian or member of the public has then to spend further time and resources in preparing another e-mail and the whole process starts again. Meanwhile, the building is on its last legs and there doesn’t seem to be any urgency.

Perhaps an e-mail asks whether a section 54 and section 48 have taken place and if so, what was the owners response? A further e-mail is then sent asking what the next steps are for the building and thus, the whole saga is just chasing for information in which many months will pass (or in the case of Sandfield Tower – 22 years!). The City Council have to invest time and money in responding to these e-mail’s and frustratingly doesn’t really know the in depth history of the building, so may just deem it as ‘listed’ but not of great importance.

At this stage, other things happen in the interim. Different ward councillors are voted in and you have to explain the whole process on why you are e-mailing them again. A new Mayor of Liverpool has been voted in and again you have to explain the whole process again. But then further items such as a spending freeze take place and there is no further action.

Frustratingly, when one e-mail’s the City Council to advise that buildings are being broken in to yet again, there have been times when they have responded and said that any further e-mail’s of this nature will be noted but be ignored as they have limited time and resources to provide. Very frustrating.

So what is the solution? It’s very simple.

Liverpool City Council build a public database (or read only excel spreadsheet if they are in a spending freeze!).

They list ‘a’ listed building with the following information:

1 – A brief history on the building, when it was built and its importance in History (as it is listed it must have some importance).

2 – Whether the building is occupied and a ‘ongoing restoration’ or whether the building has been abandoned.

3 – The condition of the building both internally and externally with images.

4 – The last time the City Council have contacted the owner (whether successfully or unsuccessfully)

5 – Whether a section 54 and or a section 48 have been made. When was this? What was the outcome? If there was no outcome, what was or is the next steps.

6 – Whether the council are prepared to Compulsory Purchase Order the building if of significant historical interest to the city.

What is the benefit to this? It’s very straightforward.

I spot an abandoned building that I know nothing about. It’s got some unique features or some architectural importance about it and therefore will be listed. I direct myself to the new City Council’s database and I can simply mug up on its brief history, and then understand for myself the timeline of when the City Council last inspected the property, last spoke to the owner and or made emergency repairs to the property. I can then see what the next action date is if the owner fails to make contact or fails to make repairs.

There is no need for me to draft a long e-mail to the City Council trying to obtain information on the building or where we are in the process, simply because this will have already been done. It cuts down on time and resources for Liverpool City Council and they are not bombarded with many e-mails from concerned members of the public over an abandoned building (as there can be more than one campaign run by different people for the same building).
Should there then be any need to speak to the City Council, it would be to offer further information to assist them (i.e., wishing to provide them with more history or more information).

Save Britain’s Heritage can see straight away the last update on listed buildings and Historic England can also use the information to remove or add information to their at-risk register. Further to this, local councillors can get on with their own ward issues which are not listed buildings related.

A very simple process that frees up everyone’s time!

There are currently over 40 listed buildings on the Save Britain’s Heritage at risk register. This website will be looking to provide up to date information on as many of these as possible in the hope that as per the above information, we can push the City Council to provide us with this information, assist the City Council with any further information on these buildings, and make the owners aware that something finally needs to be done about our Heritage.

However, wouldn’t it be worthwhile to know if there was a specific reason a building was abandoned? Perhaps the owners have passed on and this is part of an unknown estate, perhaps they have no money and don’t know where to turn to? Therefore, wouldn’t it be great to get the feedback from the owners who are facing issues with their abandoned buildings? Do they need an army of ‘free helpers’ to come in and tidy up the place? Gardening to make it look more presentable. Would free trades people help to offer in some way? This isn’t about making someone’s building become a ‘work for free,’ it would allow people who want to see inside an abandoned building give something back. Allow me to tend the garden and I get a VIP tour inside? I’m sure people would be up for that!

SAVE BRITAIN'S HERITAGE 

HISTORIC ENGLAND

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LIVERPOOL'S HERITAGE - AT RISK 

These buildings do not belong to us only...they have belonged to our forefathers and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not our property, to do as we like with. We are only trustees for those that come after us. 

 

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SAVE has been campaigning for historic buildings since its formation in 1975 by a group of architectural historians, journalists and planners. SAVE is a strong, independent voice in conservation, free to respond rapidly to emergencies and to speak out loud for the historic environment.

SAVE is a strong, independent voice in conservation that has been fighting for threatened historic buildings and sustainable reuses since 1975. 

We are at the forefront of national heritage conservation. We intervene to help historic buildings and places in serious danger of demolition or decay. We stand apart from other organisations by bringing together architects, engineers, planners and investors to offer viable alternative proposals. Where necessary, and with expert advice, we take legal action to prevent major and needless losses.

Historic England are the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England's spectacular historic environment.
We protect, champion and save the places that define who we are and where we've come from as a nation. We care passionately about the stories they tell, the ideas they represent and the people who live, work and play among them.

Working with communities and specialists we share our passion, knowledge and skills to inspire interest, care and conservation, so everyone can keep enjoying and looking after the history that surrounds us all.

We make sure people understand and appreciate the benefits England's heritage brings and why it should be respected, cherished and enhanced as part of the very soul of our nation. We open up heritage for everyone, using digital resources, media campaigns, our unsurpassed archive, publishing, public information and exhibitions.

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