Over 100 historic buildings at risk in region

English Heritage's latest Buildings at Risk Register presents mixed news for East Anglia's historic properties. Adam Gretton reports.

Its vast collection of ancient churches, country houses, medieval monuments and relics, make the region a popular destination for historians and tourists every year.

But more than 100 historic properties in the East of England are still in grave danger of irretrievable decay, according to a new survey by English Heritage.

Officials from the agency, which aims to protect and promote the country's heritage, yesterday called for more government funding following the publication of its 2007 Buildings at Risk Register.

The organisation, which last year had a £4.4m renovation budget for “at risk” and crumbling grade I and II listed buildings and scheduled ancient monuments, has more than 1,200 entries on its register this year, which would cost an estimated £400m to put right.

In the East of England, historic properties classed as being in poor or very bad condition total 115, with 36 in Norfolk, 28 in Suffolk, 25 in Essex, 12 in Cambridgeshire, nine in Hertfordshire, and five in Bedfordshire - 30 more than when the list was first published in 1998.

English Heritage yesterday revealed that new investment and restoration work had meant that nine historic sites in East Anglia had been removed from the “at risk” register, including Greyfriars Tower, in King's Lynn, Derlyngton Tower in Norwich, and The Abbey of St Edmunds at Bury.

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However, six new buildings in the region have been added to the 2007 list, including a maltings, theatre, and windpump in Norfolk, a manor house and ruins in Suffolk and a memorial in Cambridgeshire.

John Ette, ancient monuments inspector for English Heritage in the East of England, said 44pc of the agency's original register had been repaired or renovated, but there was still a “considerable” amount of work to do.

He added that £1m had been invested in the region over the last year and was “hopeful” that schemes such as the 11th century ruins of St Mary's Church, Appleton, near Sandringham, and the second world war Langham Airfield dome trainer in north Norfolk, would come off the register in the near future.

“It is not a naming and shaming exercise, but allows us to focus with the building's owners, local authorities and Heritage Lottery Fund on the most important schemes and the ones with the greatest need.

“There is no question that we get more applications in our region than we can meet the needs of, and we could make more inroads into that list if we had more funding. Eighty-three percent of our projects have a conservation deficit where they are not economically viable to repair and need some form of subsidy,” he said.

Elizabeth Nockolds, portfolio holder for sports, arts and open spaces at King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, said the £1m renovation of Greyfriars Tower was proof the buildings at risk register worked.

“It is great news that it is off the register and it is much appreciated by King's Lynn people. To see the building now is absolutely superb,” she said.

Speaking at the national launch in London, English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley called on the government to give more support to the nation's historic buildings.

He said: “While the rising property market is making some buildings economic to repair, the outlook for historic buildings where the cost of repair is more than their value once repaired, is increasingly bleak. If we fail to act today, the cost of saving these buildings will continue to rise and their decay advance.”

New additions to the English Heritage Buildings at Register list:

t St George's Theatre in Yarmouth has been closed since December as a result of health and safety fears about the early 18th century building. The borough council is carrying out a £60,000 programme of emergency repairs, including upgrading electrics and repairing brickwork and windows on the grade I listed building in St George's Plain. However, a figure of £2m is needed for a full revamp of the landmark building, which could take a few years to secure.

t The sorry state of the Dereham Maltings buildings, off Norwich Road, East Dereham, is a far cry from the days when they were at the heart of the local brewing industry.

A complex of granaries, kilns and stores were constructed in the 19th century but became derelict in the early 1980s.

The maltings buildings at Neatherd Road fell into severe disrepair but are gradually being brought back to life as flats.

But the Norwich Road structures - opposite Dereham Railway Station - remain empty and have become increasingly run down and covered by overgrowth. It remains unclear what the future has for the buildings.

t The privately owned Starston Windpump, at Home Farm, Starston, near Harleston, is a 19th century hollow post windpump, designed to pump water to a large tank at Starston Place house.

The tail fins and the timber roundhouse roof of the grade II listed structure are in poor condition. Its owners are currently seeking grant aid from English Heritage.

t A Suffolk coastal addition is the 13th century monastic settlement at Grey Friars, Dunwich. The remains of the refectory and extensive precinct walls are all that are left of the medieval site. The ancient monument is in need of significant investment to repair some collapsed masonry to one wall of the refectory and some loose masonry to its gates. The precinct walls are also overgrown with ivy and there is some evidence of burrowing animals. The east wall is succumbing to coastal erosion.

t The Clarkson Memorial, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, is a Neo-Gothic monument to Thomas Clarkson, slave abolitionist of Wisbech, c 1880. The grade II limestone and red sandstone structure, which stands at 68ft tall, was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott circa 1878. Fenland District Council is facing a repair bill to replace some pieces of architectural stonework have fallen from high level.

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