Manchester City Council
11 August 2011
Dear Mr Glennon,
Ancoats Dispensary, Old Mill Street, Ancoats, Manchester – 096729/LL/2011/N2
SAVE writes to object in the strongest terms to the proposal to demolish the Ancoats Dispensary, Manchester.
Ancoats Dispensary was built in 1879-91 as part of Ancoats Hospital. Dispensaries played an important role at this time by supplementing services at infirmaries and providing medical treatment for those people who did not qualify for poor law hospitals but could not afford medical fees. They relied largely on philanthropic support.
Dispensaries were particularly valuable in industrial areas because victims of accidents were granted automatic entry. The first physician at Ancoats was James Phillips Kay who experiences there were used as a basis for his famous publication, Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes of 1832.
Ancoats Dispensary is a fine example of its kind – a handsome and well detailed Gothic Revival design, with polychromatic brickwork and a distinctive central tower. It was designed by Manchester architects, Lewis and Crawcroft and is Grade II listed, It is now the only survival from the historic Ancoats Hospital complex. The building is both a local landmark and an important part of the industrial and social history of the area.
Having suffered from years of neglect and exposure to the elements, Ancoats Dispensary is now a derelict shell – supported by scaffolding. It is in urgent need of repair. In June 2011 the Dispensary was the subject of a dangerous structures notice.
It is a matter of great regret that a building of this status has been allowed to deteriorate to such an extent. The Dispensary has been in the ownership of Urban Splash since 2001 and it is clear that it has not been adequately protected since this time. SAVE was dismayed to read in the Heritage Statement that some of the material salvaged from the building has been stolen from a supposedly secure store. Planning policy guidance is clear that: ‘Where there is evidence of deliberate neglect of or damage to a heritage asset in the hope of obtaining consent, the resultant deteriorated state of the heritage asset should not be a factor taken into account in any decision.’ (PPS5 HE7.6)
National planning policy, PPS5 states that:
‘There should be a presumption in favour of the conservation of designated heritage assets and the more significant the designated heritage asset, the greater the presumption in favour of its conservation should be. Once lost, heritage assets cannot be replaced and their loss has a cultural, environmental, economic and social impact. Significance can be harmed or lost through alteration or destruction of the heritage asset or development within its setting. Loss affecting any designated heritage asset should require clear and convincing justification.
Substantial harm to or loss of a grade II listed building, park or garden should be exceptional.’ (HE 9.1)
An application for the demolition of a listed building is subject to the tests set out in PPS5 HE9.2 – 9.4. This policy requires applicants to provide evidence to show that:
HE9.2 Where the application will lead to substantial harm to or total loss of significance
local planning authorities should refuse consent unless it can be demonstrated that:
(i) the substantial harm to or loss of significance is necessary in order to deliver
substantial public benefits that outweigh that harm or loss; or
(ii) (a) the nature of the heritage asset prevents all reasonable uses of the site; and
(b) no viable use of the heritage asset itself can be found in the medium
term that will enable its conservation; and
(c ) conservation through grant-funding or some form of charitable or
public ownership is not possible; and
(d) the harm to or loss of the heritage asset is outweighed by the benefits of
bringing the site back into use.
In our view, this application does not include evidence that these tests have been met. The arguments in the Heritage Statement to support the demolition of Dispensary – the lack of finances available to the applicant, the withdrawal of the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) grant, and the costs of repair and restoration of the building – are not arguments that can be used to justify the loss of any listed structure.
We believe the Dispensary is capable of reuse and could be incorporated in a redevelopment scheme. Urban Splash, a large, well-established developer, has a good track record of rejuvenating historic buildings at risk and has an opportunity here to do the same. The benefits of retaining the Dispensary should are clear – the building, a local landmark, would serve to enhance the quality and status of any development.
Also, importantly, the loss of the building would damage the integrity of the group of philanthropic buildings in Ancoats which are in a unique and uniquely early industrial suburb.
We note that the Heritage Statement declares that an internal inspection of the building was not possible. This is necessary.
In addition, the criterion in HE 9.3 needs to be addressed sufficiently:
‘To be confident that no appropriate and viable use of the heritage asset can be found under policy HE9.2(ii) local planning authorities should require the applicant to provide evidence that other potential owners or users of the site have been sought through appropriate marketing and that reasonable endeavours have been made to seek grant funding for the heritage asset’s conservation and to find charitable or public authorities willing to take on the heritage asset.’
Although the building has already been advertised for sale, it would be beneficial to extend the marketing campaign for a reasonable period at a price reflecting the building’s condition to potential restoring purchasers. Although Heritage Works could not take on the building, it should also be offered to other Building Preservation Trusts. We note that Heritage Works has recently ceased to operate.
The Manchester Unitary Development Plan Policy DC19 is relevant here. It says:
‘the Council will: not grant Listed building consent for the demolition of a listed building other than in the most exceptional circumstances, and in any case, not unless it is satisfied that every possible effort has been made to continue the present use or to find a suitable alternative use’.
The applicant has not met the requirements set out in Policy DP7 and Policy EM1 (C) in the Regional Spatial Strategy for the North West (2008). Policy DP7 encourages environmental quality through the ‘protection and enhancement of the historic environment’ and Policy EM1 (C) ‘Historic Environment’ says: ‘Plans, strategies, proposals and schemes should protect, conserve and enhance the historic environment supporting conservation-led regeneration in areas rich in historic interest’.
Given the importance and the complexity of this case, mothballing could be a valid option here. This means securing the building and maintaining basic protection against the elements. The applicant has stated that ‘mothballing’ is not possible because of a lack of available finances. SAVE does not feel this option has been fully explored and believes it should be reconsidered as an alternative to demolition while new uses are sought.
We note that the result of the EIA Screening Opinion was negative. However, we submit that an EIA will need to be undertaken because the effects of the demolition of Ancoats Dispensary which would include loss of embodied energy; pollution and noise created by the demolition; loss of material assets and of cultural heritage.
In light of the above concerns, SAVE urges you to refuse this application.
Buildings at Risk Officer
Cc: Chris Costelloe, Victorian Society
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