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Battle to save pump station

An Historic Brunel pumping station is to be demolished after campaigners lose listing appeal.

Campaigners in the Devon town of Totnes have lost an appeal to have a historic Brunel pumping station listed, almost certainly resulting in the building's demolition.

The station, built for Isambard Kingdom Brunel's failed atmospheric railway in the 1840s, has already been stripped of much of its roof by contractors for site owner Dairy Crest, who plan to demolish the building before selling the site on.

Local heritage campaigners, led by Totnes Museum administrator, Alan Langmaid and Totnes Town Councillor Pruw Boswell, had initially tried to get the building listed by English Heritage.

"The Atmospheric Pumping House is one of the very few heritage sites outside the main town and is a great landmark - it would be a tragedy to lose it," said Langmaid.

However, English Heritage decided against listing the structure because, despite having historical interest through its association with Brunel's unfinished and unsuccessful South Devon Atmospheric Railway, the building has been altered considerably since it was first constructed.

"It is incomplete having lost its original machinery and its chimney," said an English Heritage spokesman.

This decision was then the subject of an appeal to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) which was also turned down last week, due to its lack of "sufficient special architectural or historic interest to justify a listing recommendation".

Dairy Crest's dismantling of the roof has been viewed with suspicion by conservationists. They have claimed it is common practice for developers to make holes in the roofs of buildings so that the rain gets in and the building becomes unsafe, making the argument to demolish much easier.

However, a Dairy Crest spokesman said the tiles from the roof of the main building were removed legitimately in order to facilitate safe and easy removal of asbestos lagging on pipes inside the building.

"Although most of these tiles are slate, a certain number do contain asbestos and these will also need to be removed," said the spokesman.

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