'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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power