“Successful partnerships, and the support of volunteers and community groups are crucial in tackling heritage at risk; a fact demonstrated consistently in the North East. Whilst we’ve been very successful in improving many sites, there is no time to relax – 20 historic sites and areas were newly assessed and added to the 2014 register. We will continue to work with others to improve the condition of our historic environment”
Graham Saunders, Planning and Conservation Director for the North East
On Tuesday 9th December 2014, English Heritage held an “Heritage at Risk” event at the Castlegate Centre in Newcastle.
A representative from Hands on Middlesbrough was invited to meet with other community and voluntary groups and discuss how they can work together to support heritage at risk in the North East of England.
The purpose of the event was to:
- Increase knowledge about what the heritage at risk programme is;
- Provide more understanding amongst local community groups about how they can support heritage at risk in their local area;
- Provide a better awareness of what funding support is available from organisations like English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund;
- Provide greater familiarity of what fundraising support is available from organisations like the Heritage Alliance – e.g. funding workshops, project mentoring, webinars and consultancy support
- Develop awareness and increase confidence and knowledge about who to contact for help and advice
On 1st April 2015, English Heritage are splitting into two separate organisations. English Heritage will concentrate on running the 420 properties they manage and Historic England will act as an independent government body, advising government, local authority and carrying out research into England’s historic environment. Historic England will be asking community groups to survey Grade II listed buildings and record their condition.
English Heritage currently maintain Grade I and Grade II* listed buildings, despite 92% of listed buildings in England are Grade II.
In Middlesbrough, our only one Grade I listed building is Acklam Hall, Grade II* buildings are Middlesbrough Town Hall, St Cuthbert Church (Marton), Church of St Peter & St Paul (Stainton), St John The Evangelist Church, All Saints Church, 7 Zetland Road, Dock Clock Tower, Transporter Bridge, Grey Towers House (Nunthorpe) & The Empire. Many significant buildings are Grade II and are in poor condition.
Community groups can help protect historic buildings and raise funds from a number of sources; heritage lottery fund, heritage alliance, architectural heritage fund, Local Buildings Preservation Trust, Princes Regeneration Trust and many more.
The event was informative, especially for fledgling community groups. There were guest speakers from Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, North of England Civic Trust and Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust.
There was also an open workshop where groups could discuss with a member of staff from English Heritage any problems or challenges facing community groups getting involved with heritage at risk, fundraising support, funding, training, information and advice.
The workshop highlighted some key problems facing community groups who are trying to protect heritage at risk. One of the main concerns raised was how English Heritage can protect buildings, structures and monuments particularly from housing development on the grounds of listed buildings when cuts to local government (conservation officers, heritage officers and archaeology services) has led to heritage and conservation moving further down the list of priorities.
In Middlesbrough, it is important the community identify the buildings, structures, monuments and gardens we want to keep, think creatively about how buildings can be used for modern purposes, raise funds and work together with the local authority to protect our heritage above and below the ground. There are funds available for setting up a group to champion heritage, for restoration projects and for heritage projects that benefit communities.
The Heritage Lottery Fund was set up in 1994 and has given 5.8 billion to Heritage Projects in the UK. Community groups can easily apply for funds, projects for over £10,000 must demonstrate one outcome for heritage and one for people.
The historic environment is all around us and it is our responsibility to make it a priority to preserve what we can for future generations. Communities need to work with the local authority and organisations like English Heritage to ensure heritage is given the respect it deserves.
Hands on Middlesbrough has signed up to help Historic England next year record the condition of all Grade II listed buildings in Middlesbrough.
Photographs provided by Local Historian, Ian Stubbs