News   -   Heritage at Risk 2016


On 21st October 2016 Historic England published their annual Heritage at Risk Register, providing the annual insight into the state of England’s most valued historic places.

The Register brings attention to the sites across England that are at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England highlighted the good news that there are137 fewer entries in the 2016 register than in 2015, and commented on their being grounds for optimism. However, as some places are rescued, others fall into disrepair and the gap between the cost of repair and their end value is growing.

The list also underlined skill shortages in key professions and trades, and even a shortage of scaffolding as contributing to the increasing gap between the cost of repairs and the end value of heritage sites.

Some of the sites that have made the list this year are local to Sussex:

  • Brighton Old Town Conservation Area, which contains Brighton’s prosperous Lanes shopping area but also suffers with a number of vacant landmark buildings, the impact of increasing traffic which creates a barrier to the beachfront, and from the impact of poorly designed and out-of-place shop fronts
  • Fort Purbrook in Portsmouth, (Grade II*) is a so-called ‘Palmerston Folly, built in the mid-1800s on top of Portsdown Hill, to defend the city of Portsmouth, and in particular the Royal Naval Dockyard from attack by the French. Part of the Fort is used as an activities centre but the condition of other areas is deteriorating.

One of those landmark buildings that is already on the Heritage at Risk Register is Grade II* Brighton Hippodrome Theatre.

Following a planning application in 2013 to covert the theatre into an 8 screen cinema, which was considered controversial in its proposed removal of so much of the building’s workings and interior, a movement to save the building and preserve its heritage began locally in the Friends Meeting House in Brighton.

The planning application was approved in November 2014, however the building was then put up for sale and the development was put on hold. A Community Interest Company (CIC) was formed to establish a corporate entity that could negotiate with the new ownership.

In April 2015 the Hippodrome site was bought by Academy Music Group (AMG), who approached the Theatres Trust and the CIC and offered a six-month window of opportunity to develop a viable plan for acquisition and restoration of the Hippodrome.

An Options and Viability Report delivered in December 2015 by Collier International commented: ‘The strategy would be to make the most of the “spectacular hall” character of the building, and its location at the heart of one of the most cosmopolitan and popular destinations in Britain, to create a truly unique arts and entertainment venue. It would return the building to its heritage as a place of variety entertainment.”

The Brighton Hippodrome Theatre remains on the Heritage at Risk Register but it appears that an opportunity to restore and re-use this historic building as live venue is a real possibility. For more information and some wonderful photos of the interior past and present visit http://www.ourhippodrome.org.uk/

Grade II* Fort Purbrook, Portsmouth
Grade II* Fort Purbrook, Portsmouth

 

Grade II* Brighton Hippodrome Theatre
Grade II* Brighton Hippodrome Theatre