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Saving our Hertfordshire heritage

PUBLISHED: 17:58 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 14:53 20 February 2013

The Postern Gate at Hertford Castle

The Postern Gate at Hertford Castle

As the number of historic buildings at risk of ruin fails to abate, English Heritage faces the huge task of pulling our past back from the brink

WITH so many new developments and new buildings going up around us, how often do we pay attention to the buildings that form our history and our heritage? Many are crumbling into ruins and are in need of a helping hand. Which is where English Heritage comes in. With the help of local councils and individuals the group is helping restore some of these valuable treasures to their former glory, and so securing the future of these outstanding and irreplaceable parts of our heritage.
Produced annually, the register records all those buildings in most urgent need of help and subsidies. It highlights important historic buildings from across the country that are in grave danger of irretrievable decay - some privately owned and others owned by the local authority. Currently there are 115 properties on the register from across the eastern region, including 28 in Suffolk, five in Bedfordshire, 12 in Cambridgeshire, 25 in Essex, 36 in Norfolk - and nine in Hertfordshire.
The Buildings at Risk Register is an online database of all the Grade I and II* listed buildings (and Grade II in London) as well as structural Scheduled Ancient Monuments in England at risk through neglect and decay, or vulnerable to becoming so. Most range from poor to very bad condition.
Launching the 2007 edition of the register for the East of England last month, English Heritage announced that nine entries have been removed as a result of investment and vital restoration work that has given them a new lease of life.
One of these is the 12th century castle wall and 13th century Postern Gate close to Hertford Castle. The flint rubble structure in the surviving castle walls has now been repaired and consolidated by East Hertfordshire District Council.
The council had to apply to English Heritage to carry out work on the wall and gate after part of the structure, listed as an ancient monument, collapsed. The council then spent 90,000 on reconstructing the gate and doing work on the wall and has an ongoing maintenance programme in place so any problems with the wall and gate are recognised quickly.
Chief executive of English Heritage Simon Thurley is highlighting the issue of the need for public subsidies for Buildings at Risk with 'conservation deficit' of 1million or more, and no solution. He says, 'What makes these buildings expensive and difficult to revive is a combination of factors such as their vast scale, the fact that part of the site is often a structure which can only be preserved but will never have a beneficial use, and in some cases also their inaccessibility. Even though many of these buildings are capable of being restored to some form of beneficial use, including housing, it does not necessarily make them economic propositions for developers, organisations or individuals. In consequence, and because of their outstanding national importance, they each need a degree of public subsidy ranging from 1million to 25million.
'The 2007 Register contains 1,235 entries. The total subsidy needed to bring all the buildings on the Register into repair remains, as it did in 1999, at around 400million.
'We call on the Government, and especially the new Secretary of State, to work with us to convince public funding bodies of the value of the nation's heritage. If we fail to act, the cost of saving these buildings will continue to rise and their decay advance.'
You can access the register at www.english-heritage.org.uk/bar

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