Buildings designed by some of the world’s top architects have been preserved thanks to a ‘radical’ idea nearly 20 years ago, a heritage body has said.
Wellington Arch, the Albert Memorial and the Camden Roundhouse are among more than 2,000 listed buildings across London saved from ruin and neglect over the past 20 years.
English Heritage hailed the successes sparked by the first buildings at risk register, a move to record all listed buildings in London that had fallen into neglect and had an uncertain future.
In January 1991, a survey found that almost 1,000 buildings listed as grade I, grade II* or grade II were identified as vacant, underused or in a state of disrepair, after years of neglect in the capital.
But the Saving London report revealed that more than 90% of those on the initial list have now been saved, while in total more than 2,000 buildings have been repaired, restored and given a new lease of life.
However, the report warned that heritage was once again under pressure from the economic climate and warned against neglecting old local buildings and other monuments which the organisation said were ‘core’ to society.
In 1991, the collapse of the property market saw many buildings abandoned and end up on the register, and English Heritage fears this could happen again. The heritage body said that many London local authorities had been reluctant to use statutory powers to secure repairs, in the belief there would be too much red tape or it would cost too much – a misconception which still exists today.
Philip Davies, of English Heritage, also said the organisation was aware that local authorities were now under huge pressure to slash spending, but urged them to think before cutting conservation officer posts and funding.
“Heritage provides not only a sense of place and continuity, it acts as a focus for social cohesion and offers a sense of identity as well as a catalyst for regeneration and good new design. Heritage is core, not a luxury,” he said. The list became the Buildings at Risk Register, which in 1998 was rolled out on a national scale and two years ago became the Heritage at Risk Register covering buildings, scheduled monuments, landscapes, gardens, battlefields, conservation areas and offshore wrecks.
From next year, listed places of worship such as churches will be included on the register. Listed buildings end up at risk for a number of reasons, including becoming redundant, no longer suited to the purpose for which they were designed or simply suffering at the hands of owners who do not carry out repairs, English Heritage said.