ALMOST 50 conservation areas in the North East are considered at risk of neglect, decay or damaging change. it is revealed today.
One in five of 243 conservation areas surveyed in the region is considered to be at risk, says English Heritage.
The figure emerges from the launch today by English Heritage of its 2009 Heritage at Risk register.
The register offers the most detailed ever insight into the state of the region’s important historic places and includes the results of the first ever national survey into the condition of conservation areas.
These areas – designated by local councils to protect their unique character and appearance – represent the heart of the region’s built heritage.
Now, based on the survey’s findings, English Heritage is launching a Conservation Areas at Risk campaign to encourage residents, local groups and councils to work together to improve these special places.
For the survey, English Heritage asked all local authorities in the region to complete a questionnaire for each of its conservation areas.
The survey revealed the top threats to be:
:: Plastic windows and doors (83% of conservation areas affected)
:: Poorly maintained roads and pavements (60%)
:: Street clutter (45%)
:: Loss of front garden walls, fences and hedges (43%)
:: Unsightly satellite dishes (38%)
:: The effects of traffic calming or traffic management (36%)
:: Alterations to the fronts, roofs and chimneys of buildings (34%)
:: Unsympathetic extensions (31%)
:: Impact of advertisements (23%)
:: Neglected green spaces (18%).
The North East has a total of 300 conservation areas and of these 41% are rural.
Carol Pyrah, English Heritage planning and development director for the North East, said: “We hope this survey will help local authorities to prioritise action and we will be working with them to identify how we can help. Over the next year we will be encouraging local authorities to plug the gaps in the survey and refine the data.
“We also encourage local people to get involved. Our survey shows that conservation areas with community support are more than twice as likely to have improved over the last three years as those without.”
A poll of estate agents by English Heritage also revealed a solid economic case for caring for the region’s conservation areas, with 82% saying that original features add value to a property and 75% reported that being in a well-kept conservation area enhances house prices.
Conservation areas were introduced by the 1967 Civic Amenities Act as “areas of special architectural or historic interest the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance”.
Since then, more than 9,300 have been designated by local authorities across England.
This means that most people visit, work in or live in conservation areas on a regular basis – they are part of our everyday life and represent what we value most about our surroundings.
Page 3 - At risk >>
The at risk conservation areas are:
Newcastle: Gosforth and Northumberland Gardens.
North Tyneside: Cullercoats; Preston Park; Sacred Heart Church, Wideopen; St. Peter’s.
Gateshead: Blaydon Bank; Ravensworth.
South Tyneside: Cleadon; Cleadon Hills ; East Boldon.
Sunderland: Ashbrooke; Bishopwearmouth; Nesham Place, Houghton Le Spring; Old Sunderland Riverside.
Northumberland: Amble; Blyth Bondicar Terrace; Blyth Central; Felton; Newton on the Moor.
County Durham: Annfield Plain; Bowburn; Bowes; Cotherstone; Egglestone; Esh; Ingleton; Kirk Merrington; Low Westwood; Mickleton; Mordan; Sunderland Bridge; Windlestone Park; Darlington Victoria Embankment.
Hartlepool: Church Street; Grange Headland.
Middlesbrough: Linthorpe; Marton and the Grove ; Nunthorpe and Poole ; Stainton and Thornton .
Redcar and Cleveland: Guisborough; Kirkleatham; Moorsholm; Redcar; Skinningrove.
Page 4 - We are still the worst, though it's not as bad >>
We are still the worst, though it's not as bad
THERE are 82 Grade I and II* buildings at risk of decay or neglect in the North East.
Nine sites have come off English Heritage’s 2009 at risk register, while six have been added.
The number of sites moving down the priority scale for level of risk totalled 20 with nine going in the opposite direction.
Although the figures show some improvement, the North East continues to have the highest percentage, at 7.2%, of Grade I and II* listed buildings considered to be at risk in the country. The national average is 3.1%.
Among the additions to the at risk list is the prominent Keelman’s Hospital, overlooking Newcastle Quayside.
It was built in 1701 by the Tyne’s keelmen to care for their aged and poor colleagues.
The building was used as student accommodation but is now standing empty.
Also new to the risk register is the 1777 pedestrian Prebend’s Bridge, which is owned by Durham Cathedral and is part of the world heritage site. A cathedral spokeswoman said that water from an underground spring was seeping into the bridge and if it freezes it can cause stone-splitting.
The cathedral is looking for funding for investigative work, with the full bill to solve the problem likely to be over £1m.
Other additions are the coastal artillery battery at Blyth Links; 5-13, Grey Street, and 4, Old Eldon Square, both Newcastle; Westgate Primitive Methodist Chapel, Stanhope, County Durham.
Off the list are the Iron Bridge, Cragside; Blenkinsopp Castle, Greenhead; Homilton Farm dovecot: Caw Burn – Cockmount Hill, Hadrian’s Wall, all Northumberland; Old Hollinside, Gateshead; West Range, Kepier Hospital, Durham City; Tockett’s Mill, Guisborough; Holy Trinity Church, Stockton; folly in Raby Park, Tees Valley. Blenkinsopp Castle has been removed after a project that saw the owners learn traditional construction skills necessary to carry out the repairs.
English Heritage said that a key issue for the North East is that almost half of the region’s at risk sites are isolated ruins.
The regional register also contains many industrial sites where the remains can cover a wide area and contain a host of structures, often individually listed.
Some are capable of reuse, with many presenting opportunities for interpretation and, once repaired, increased access as part of local walks and trails or farm diversification schemes, all of which can stimulate tourism.
Last year English Heritage gave grants worth £1.6m regionally for repairs to 40 entries on the register.
Page 5 - Monuments and battlefields at risk >>
Monuments and battlefields at risk
COUNCILS in the North East yesterday said they were doing their best to protect conservation areas.
Yesterday a Newcastle council spokeswomen said: "The council is very much aware of the need to preserve and enhance the special character of all of its 11 conservation areas.
"Each area has a character assessment setting out the key features that make the areas special. We are also in the process of preparing management plans for all of the conservation areas."
A North Tyneside Council spokesman said: "We recognise the importance of our 17 conservation areas. There are different issues relating to each of the conservation areas on the at risk register.
"Over the coming months we will be formulating a strategy for future action to ensure that these areas are considered to be at less risk or are removed from the register."
Sunderland City Council expressed its "surprise and concern" that four of the city’s 14 conservation areas are included on the at-risk register.
"It is particularly surprising that the results have shown Ashbrooke, and Nesham Place Conservation Areas to be at risk, considering that these residential areas are among the most attractive and well-preserved historic areas in the city," said council head of planing and environment Keith Lowes. "Likewise, Bishopwearmouth, contains some of the city’s finest buildings which are generally in very good condition.
"This brings into question how the survey results have been interpreted and whether the register represents a true reflection of the condition of the conservation areas included in it."