A sorry tale of neglect is revealed as Bristol City Council submits a listed building consent application to demolish Grade II listed building, Nos. 254-256 Two Mile Hill Road, Bristol. A pair of Georgian cottages with 2-storey Victorian shopfront additions, the building’s significance lies (to quote English Heritage) largely in its rarity as an early example of this building type in this area.
While the situation has undoubtedly been complicated by ownership issues, it is extremely disappointing that the Council has failed to protect this listed building, despite their having the necessary powers at their disposal and knowing for nearly two decades it was falling into disrepair.
Salient facts from the Witness Statement accompanying the application prepared by Bristol City Council’s principal structural engineer Dr Kavandi, along with other documentation are:
• BCC’s Dangerous Structures Team (DST) ” has been aware of structural problems at 254-256 Two Mile Hill Road… for at least 18 years.” – i.e. since 1996.
• The building’s parlous condition has been regularly noted in BCC’s Listed Buildings at Risk Register since 1998.
• In July 2002, BCC decided it needed specialist advice and Craddy Pitchers (Consulting structural engineers) were instructed; they inspected and “…advised the Council on urgent works required to stabilise the building and prevent further deterioration.”
• The DST have, since 2002, “…continuously monitored the building from the outside to ensure that the adjacent highway remained safe for members of the public…”
• In December 2004 a Section 54 Urgent Works Notice was served on the owner, after which a temporary roof repair was carried out.
• Following the death of the owner in March 2005, the CSE was again instructed to re-inspect the condition of the property. This was done, together with a BCC conservation officer and others, after an Entry Warrant had been obtained from Bristol Magistrates in August 2005, “…to ascertain what works would be required to prevent an acceleration of the deterioration of this listed building.” Following this action, a further report was prepared but little, if any, remedial works would appear to have been carried out by the new owner/s who “…effectively refused to engage with the Council regarding the Property.”
• A further eight years was then allowed to pass before the DST, becoming concerned at the stability of the buildings, convened a site meeting in October 2013 with English Heritage and others to inspect the condition of the building from the outside. This revealed that “…the building is in extremely poor condition…” and that it will “…ultimately collapse onto the public highway… with serious risk that this will cause injury to the public”. English Heritage wrote to BCC in january 2014, saying “It is clear that the amount of work required to stabilise the building would involve the loss of a large amount of historic fabric, and it is questionable whether or not the building would retain a notable level of significance following any works carried out.
The building has, according to the Justification for Demolition, been uninhabited and uninhabitable for over a decade. Between 2010 and 2012, the council did apparently investigated the possibility of either compulsorily purchasing or enforcing a sale of the property, but concluded that this was not feasible “…since no party had clear legal title…”
The application for Listed Building Consent can be viewed here.