Is Stoke-on-Trent facing a “heritage emergency”?

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The founder of a development and regeneration advisers company has said that Stoke on Trent is facing a “Heritage Emergency”.

Dave Proudlove, from URBME, bemoaned the state of several of the Potteries’ most important heritage sites. 

Mr. Proudlove told the Stoke Sentinel that the emergency took a turn for the worse last weekend when Stoke-on-Trent City Council took urgent action to partially demolish the privately owned main range at Longport’s Top Bridge Works (Price and Kensington Teapot Works).

Longport’s Top Bridge Works is now looking very different.

The grade II building demolition was granted using powers under the Building Act 1984, which deals with unsafe derelict buildings, after surveys revealed that parts of the structure were at risk of collapse. 

He added that: “It is not just one of the city’s most important sites, it is one of the country’s most important sites”. 

In July 2018, the city council served a notice on the owner of the Grade II listed building, which required steps to be taken to improve the condition of the property.

The owner was prosecuted in October for failing to comply with the requirements set out in the notice and fined £1,000. The building has previously been placed on Historic England’s heritage “at risk” register. 

In a statement published on the city council’s website on the 31st October, Cllr Daniel Jellyman, cabinet member for regeneration, infrastructure, and heritage, said: “The city council is committed to protecting our city’s heritage and it is with deep regret that this privately-owned building has fallen into such poor condition.

“We’ve been actively pursuing the owner for some time to complete works on the site to improve the fabric of the building, which regrettably culminated in a court prosecution last week. 

The bottle kiln at the site remains standing following the demolition.

“Some remedial work to the building was carried out by the owner in the summer but this has not resolved the issues and we have now run out of time. Recent site inspections carried out by the council have shown that a part of the building is in an unsafe and dangerous condition, leaving the city council with no option but to take steps to ensure that the public are not exposed to harm.

“The work will involve targeted demolition of the unsafe building on the street front to bring it down to a safe height. We are left with no choice but to act to protect public safety.

“I’ve personally had meetings with Historic England to try and find a developer to regenerate the site but unfortunately no-one has come forward over the last four years. We will be seeking to recover all reasonable costs associated with the demolition work from the site owner.” 

Mr. Proudlove described his feelings when witnessing the partial demolition together with other protesters, and said: “I was there too, and seeing those famous walls come tumbling down was shocking; it took my breath away, but not in a good way.

“For far too long, Stoke on Trent and other similar places have been overlooked and ignored. Walk around our city and you will find many other buildings that could quite easily go the same way. Hanley’s Falcon Pottery and Longton’s Boundary Works for example.

Middleport Pottery is also a Grade II listed site, and attracts thousands of visitors every year.

“Basically our city’s heritage emergency is a product of poor urban and regional policy.”

He referred to the Middleport Pottery, also a Grade II listed Building located close by, which has been regenerated and attracts thousands of visitors each year as an example and reminder of the potential of the city’s heritage. 

 Local Businessman Danny Rowley of Adoorable Doors spoke to StaffsLive on site at the Top Range Works and said: “It’s such a shame [the demolition] because it was a nice pot bank that was, it made teapots, it was there a long time.” 

It is a far cry from the days when the area’s most famous son, Josiah Wedgewood, helped make Stoke-on-Trent world famous and lead the way as the centre of pottery and ceramics.

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