Owning an 'at risk' listed building

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The
Independent's article (24 September 2010) about the dilapidated state of an "At Risk" Listed Building in West London records the frustration of conservation groups watching the deterioration of the building seemingly without anyone being able to do anything to halt its decline.This frustration is shared by my brother and myself as owners of the building featured, having twice been refused listed building consent to rebuild it re-instating period features and re-using original materials, most recently in July 2010. The structural and chartered surveys we have commissioned identify very serious problems for which they recommend complete rebuilding, including rising damp through dirt floors, poor building methods with the rafters in the Victorian lounge extension too weak to support the roof, and worst of all, 19th century alterations removing the main spine wall and joists running front to back of the house.

The verdict of the report is not accepted by conservation groups, notably the Spitalfields trust and the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings.The insistence that the building can be "repaired" is to a large extent a question of semantics. The rear wall of the house is dangerously unstable, and will need to be completely rebuilt, but this is termed an "internal repair" by the conservation practitioner who surveyed the property.

The main point of agreement is that however important the house may be to neighbours and conservation groups, the whole financial responsibility for rectifying the house's problems falls upon the unfortunate owners, who have the unenviable choice between risking bankruptcy with a hugely costly "repair" involving renewing the entire fabric of the house the house or selling the 0.36 acre 6-bedroomed property for less than the price of a one-bedroomed flat.

Dr James Fowler
London W7

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