'Magnificent legacy' of public buildings at risk

In Leeds, a former police station has found new life as a bar and restaurant, while the old Shoreditch town hall in the East End of London has become a venue for community events. Yet, all around the country many public buildings are facing an uncertain future through simple neglect of their worth, English Heritage says.

The conservation body warns that many of the nation's redundant town halls, fire stations, courts, schools and libraries are in serious danger of decaying over the next decade unless new uses can be found for them.

Simon Thurley, the government-funded agency's chief executive, said at the launch yesterday of the annual Heritage Counts report on the state of the historic built environment, that there was a "magnificent legacy" of public buildings left by earlier generations, particularly the Victorians, which embodied the spirit of their age. But some were at risk and their number could increase dramatically if action was not taken.

The problem, he said, was that these buildings had served communities effectively for more than a hundred years but were now ceasing to do so. Public needs had changed "dramatically", he said, and over the next 10 to 15 years it was likely that a number of such buildings will fall out of use.

"These buildings still have an important value locally that goes far beyond their original uses," said Mr Thurley. "They endow a sense of distinctiveness on a place as well as helping to shape its character and they often have an emotional resonance for local people.

"Because they are iconic their loss has a dramatic impact on the look and feel of a local area. At the moment the number of public buildings at risk is relatively small, but this so easily could turn into a flood."

The report argues that it is important to find innovative new uses for these buildings, such as restaurants, gyms, museums, community centres or music venues, in the same way that many former churches and public houses have been turned into housing. As well as Shoreditch town hall, now a community venue, and Chapel Allerton police station in Leeds, now the Old Police Station bar and restaurant, there is a former public library in Sheffield which has been turned into a gym, and a former courthouse in Nottinghamshire which is now a museum.

Buildings at risk, according to English Heritage, include a fire station in Southwark, south London, the county court building in Coventry and a library and public baths in Leeds.

English Heritage believes increasing public interest in the nation's environment and heritage will help to ensure the future of such buildings. It said more than one million people had signed up to support the History Matters campaign launched in July.

Voices
voices
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
newsBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
newsHad asteroid hit earlier or later in history, the creatures might have survived, say scientists
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Finance Systems Analyst

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a PE...

Credit Controller - Enfield

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Credit Controller - Enfield (North London / Hertfor...

year 5 teacher

£21000 - £32000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to wo...

Supply Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a b...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried