Managing Heritage at Risk

Why Heritage Matters

Why Heritage Matters

These old buildings do not belong to us only … The belonged to our forefathers and they will belong to our descendent unless we play them false. We are only trustees to those who come after us. – William Morris, Annual Meeting of the SPAB 1889

Our heritage is part of our well-being, our quality of life. Many small businesses operate out of old buildings. Heritage is what gives our town centres character.

Our old building are at risk, they are at risk from greed, ignorance, criminal behaviour, and above all the Philistine behaviour towards our heritage displayed by the ConDem government.

Archaeological sites are being vandalised for rare finds which can be sold on the black market. When a church loses its roof the damage goes far beyond the loss of the lead, ingress of water produces further damage. The penalties in Court should reflect this.

Too many local authorities are backwards in protecting their heritage, they fail to see it for what it is worth.

Heritage sites can often be found alternative uses, but it requires vision.

Look at Aldershot. A Victorian town destroyed by greed and decades of bad planning decisions.

A former RAF/USAF site was scheduled for redevelopment. This has now been stopped. The hardened bunkers, with 80 ton steel doors would have been very difficult to demolish. They were designed to withstand a bomb attack. The hardened bunkers housed nuclear-armed aircraft. A use has been found for the hardened bunkers as data storage sites. The entire site could become a World Heritage Site to demonstrate the futility of the Cold war.

The Tumbledown Dick in Farnborough is at risk. A building that pre-dates Farnborough, once a popular music venue, now earmarked for demolition for an unwanted McDonald’s. It needs to be placed on the Buildings at Risk Register, but first it must be turned into a Listed Building.

Buildings at Risk Register is as the name suggests, a register of buildings that are at risk, but only applies to Listed Buildings.

Heritage at Risk Register takes this one step further, to include heritage sites. This can be battlefields, gardens, landscapes, shipwrecks.

Many of our churches are at risk, and yet oddly the Church of England is refusing to cooperate with English Heritage on the Buildings at Risk Register.

We have a government that sees heritage, the countryside as an impediment to economic growth, that the right to Judicial Review and to mount legal challenges to be restricted.

English Heritage can play its part, but the hand of English Heritage is greatly strengthened if individuals, communities, are prepared to stand up and fight for their heritage.

Once our heritage is gone it is gone forever.

Based on an excellent illustrated talk by Dr Nigel Barker of English Heritage at the Guildford Institute in Guildford.

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