Old buildings in North 'twice as likely' to decay

Character-filled buildings in the North of England are more than twice as likely to face a wobbly future of rot and rubble as those located in the South, English Heritage has declared.

Unveiling its 2006 endangered list of Grade I and Grade II* buildings, the group cited soaring house prices in the South as an enabler of renovation that rarely graces the North.

Reflecting on the register, English Heritage said “concrete progress” is being made to secure the future of 43 per cent of crumbling buildings in London, compared to just 22 per cent in the North.

Nationally, 3.3 per cent of listed buildings remain at risk of loss through neglect and decay – though in the North East the figure rises to 7.8 per cent, while in the South, it falls to 2.1 per cent.

Confirming the gloomy picture, the register reveals that category A buildings – those that show “immediate risk of further rapid deterioration or loss of fabric” are most populous in the West Midlands and the North East.

Conversely, just eight per cent of listed buildings in London fall into the same ‘high priority’ category – a finding that supports the fact the EH has saved more buildings in the South than anywhere else nationwide.

Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, told The Independent: “It’s about twice as difficult to solve the problem in the North, because of the high proportion of redundant industrial buildings and because the economy still has to catch up with the South.”

The risk to Grade II* buildings in the North East and North West remains significantly higher than to Grade I buildings, the group said, pointing to uncertain futures for almost twice as many listed as Grade II*.

Overall, England has 30,517 crumbling buildings (those listed Grade I and Grade II*) – representing an increase of 2. 2per cent since the baseline register began in 1999.

English Heritage reflected, “Although the percentage of buildings that are economic to repair and not in need of public subsidy to facilitate their removal from the Register has shown a slight increase over the past two years, the trend since 1999 shows a steady decrease.

“86.8 per cent of buildings on the Register are likely to require some subsidy to bring them back into use. With the total conservation deficit remaining more or less static, despite the fall in entries, the average subsidy needed for each entry on the Register has increased in real terms. If these trends continue, the percentage of buildings removed from the Register will decline or stagnate.”

Success stories over the last year from the £4.9m English Heritage has spent saving old buildings beyond the South include St Augustine’s Church in Lancashire, and The Albany in Liverpool.

More old buildings than ever are being saved from decay, and just over 40 per cent of entries on the 1999 register have now been removed, because their future has now been secured.


12th July 2006

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