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Saturday, 20 September 2014

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Clean bill of health in care for our historic buildings

COPELAND is leading the way in the North West in caring for its historic buildings.

Out of 423 Grade II listed buildings surveyed, only seven properties were found to be at risk, one of the lowest percentages from 12 pilot surveys carried out across the country.

Whitehaven was one of only 12 towns selected by English Heritage to take part in a pilot scheme to assess the state of the nation’s Grade II buildings.

Copeland’s industrious volunteers surveyed nearly twice as many Grade II buildings as they were aiming for – 423 rather than 217. The North of England Civic Trust was the driving force behind the pilot survey in Copeland, running it on behalf of Copeland Council and drawing volunteers from all walks of life.

Jules Brown, conservation and planning manager at the North of England Civic Trust, said: “It seems Copeland folk really do appreciate their listed buildings, and the council’s work to resolve some of the borough’s most dilapidated buildings in recent years shows that it does too.”

He added: “This pilot has clearly shown the passion and commitment local people in Copeland have for their heritage.

“When given the chance to get properly stuck in, people become fascinated about the special buildings in their neighbourhoods, understanding more about what makes them tick and highlighting the benefits – and problems – of caring for older buildings.

“The Copeland project has produced an enthusiastic team which could easily go on to do more, as well as producing the data to show how well our best buildings are faring. It also led to a good deal of positive feedback from listed building owners.”

Grade II buildings represent approximately 92 per cent of all listed buildings and of the near 4,000 surveyed across England 165 were found to be at risk or 4.2 per cent.

That compares with just 1.7 per cent in Copeland. Up to now, English Heritage’s ‘at risk’ register has only included Grade I properties (except London).

Among those in Copeland is the YMCA building in Irish Street which has been empty and in run-down state for years but is now looking to a happier future as home to the Foyer project which will provide accommodation and job training for local 17 to 23-year-olds.

The recent award of a £660,000 heritage lottery grant for the Market area of town will also benefit the building.

Henry Owen-John, English Heritage’s planning and conservation director (North West), said: “Copeland is home to some wonderful buildings, and Grade II buildings are the bulk of the North West’s heritage treasury.

“When one of them is lost, it’s as though someone has rubbed out a bit of the past – something that made your street or your village special will have gone.

“We will be looking hard at what we’ve achieved with the work in Copeland and how the new dedicated ‘Heritage at Risk’ in the North West can help to ensure we continue to deliver sustainable solutions for those parts of our heritage that are most under threat.”

In the last year, English Heritage has offered over half a million pounds in grants to help sites in the North West on the Register.

Nearly half of the buildings in the North West at risk on the original Register in 1999 have now been saved.

Have your say

A clean bill of health, yet our council are planning on demolishing one of our most historic buildings, the bus station.

Posted by Martin on 14 October 2013 at 21:04

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