To Simon Thurley
I was shocked and outraged at the decision by the Secretary of State (Eric Pickles), English Heritage and indeed Manchester City Council to allow the last remaining building out of 21 – the Ancoats Dispensary – to be allowed to be demolished.
In 11 years property speculators Urban Splash have taken a solid building and have been granted demolition on 2 other listed buildings on the site with I presume the backing of both English Heritage and Manchester City Council.
In that 11 years the building has under your watch been subjected to what amounts to wanton cultural vandalism.
Having spoke to Communities and Local Government representative today and heard that English Heritage was ‘disappointed’ it did not object to the demolition. This is quite astounding to say the least.
What it is apparent is that this building lies in an area outside London, where protection of London’s history, now marketed to all terms and purposes as national heritage, is simply not of equal importance. If this is not the case, how can an historic building, within an area that is widely regarded as being the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, not be of national or even regional importance! This is of world importance. It is clear to Fight2SaveAncoatsDispensary that protection of our built heritage is two-tiered in that whilst stately houses get prime protection, working-class or indeed under-class of the period in question is not worthy of protection as it doesn’t meet the ideology and mythic Americanised image of Englishness, where we all live in castles and stately homes.
But back to the facts, how can English Heritage agree with Manchester City Council and Urban Splash in that every option had been explored! That is laughable! A little advert in the Manchester Evening News and ridiculously small advert on Ancoats Dispensary and a post on a website doesn’t amount to the marketing capabilities of both Urban Splash and Manchester City Council!
In 3 weeks in the period after the Planning Committee meeting on the 28th June, the Ancoats Residents Forum (now a separate group – Fight2SaveAncoatsDispensary) have got over 2000 signatures (over 950 online and counting) and have been swamped with donations, offers of skills and experience, from trained architects, historians, heritage tradesmen, scaffolders, builders etc.
In just 3 weeks, we have produced a sustainable business case with Manchester College regarding the great potential of this building to be used as a unique training opportunity for its heritage and building students (18-24), with the long term plan of using the building as part training facility for care in the community workers. Not only would this provide a golden opportunity for young people who there are nearly one million and rising umemployed, but it would also help build a facility which would aid a society that is growing older.
Manchester College have the resources, skills, experience and capabilities having transformed the historic Harpurhey Baths and are currently working with the Council on the Town Hall and Library Extension.
We have also had very promising meetings with Heritage Skills Hub who also backed our project, all of which will amount for nothing since this decision has been taken.
We were also in the process of applying for Heritage Lottery funding which we were very positive our project would be successful.
We also in the immediacy contacted digital agency Juicy Media to explore e-commerce opportunities for raising immediate essential funds via crowdsouring and crowdfunding. All of which were backed by MP Tony Lloyd and which he agreed at the public meeting on the 23rd July, “new ideas” had been indeed found and which Urban Splash had not thought of or indeed explored. Similar crowdfunding schemes had raised 110% of their desired figure in just 2 months (£25,000).
Not only had we developed a robust, sustainable and beneficial community led project, but we had uncovered evidence of the role that Ancoats Hospital had played in not only, regional or national importance but indeed global importance, which given the opportunity we would have presented to English Heritage and Manchester City Council. Evidence once again that was explored in the reports by Urban Splash or indeed any Manchester City Council or English Heritage report.
The final outcome of this somewhat dubious affair, which I’m sure under Freedom of Information, will be fully exposed it that what English Heritage and Manchester City Council have done and backed by the Government is that any person, property developer or not, can purchase a listed building and wantonly run it into the ground and then get backing for all parties. If indeed English Heritage back the precedent they have now set in motion, it is a very sad day indeed.
Ancoats Dispensary is currently listed Grade II listed which is unbelievable considering its history of pioneering work not only in medicine but education. Our evidence proves that this building is Grade II* and yet we have not been given the opportunity to present our case and indeed our business case, because to quote “every option has been explored”
I implore English Heritage to review this case with the same passion, commitment and detailed approach it applies to building set against a less humble of environments.
Mr N Bowles
on behalf of Fight 2 Save Ancoats Dispensary