CONSERVATIONISTS are calling on Warrington Borough Council’s leadership to commit themselves to saving and preserving as much as possible of the historic buildings on the Garnett’s cabinet works site.
Warrington Civic Society believes there is now an extremely urgent need for the council to take robust action to preserve and
repair the Water Tower, Garnett Works, ex-council office and schools, by taking appropriate action under the Building Act 1984 and the appropriate planning and conservation legislation.
Last month Warrington Borough Council issued a statement saying demolition work would be required on some parts of the building within the month “due to real dangers to human life” due to the dilapidated state of the building which has been targeted by vandals.
Civic Society Chairman John Shipley said: “A clear corporate approach is needed and we advocate that this should be conservation led.
“This would best allow the Council to fulfill its legal duty under Section 72 of the Town and Country Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 which requires ‘that special attention shall be paid in the exercise of planning functions to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of a Conservation Area.’
Mr Shipley added: “In the absence of this, people will understandably base their expectations on past experience which is largely negative. These buildings, “identified as being among the most important in the Council’s own Conservation Area Appraisal, have after all been allowed to decay for the past 13 years. We are not asking for a new master plan or Warrington & Co strategy immediately simply an overall statement of intent.
“Warrington Civic Society are still awaiting the reasoning behind the approaches proposed for the emergency works, in particular the alternatives considered and justification for the proposal to remove part of the former school building on Cairo Street for access.
“What particularly concerns us however, is the apparent loosely defined approach for the emergency works which we are informed “will not generally have detailed method statements … more of a dynamic risk assessment”.
“Whilst we appreciate the importance of safety, if the Council are serious about preserving as much heritage as possible then they must specify in detail and precisely what is to be done under Section 78 of the Building Act 1984 to ‘remove the danger’ and make this method statement public.
“The contractors would then need to be made aware before works commence that anything outside this would constitute demolition without planning permission, which in a Conservation Area is a criminal offence.
“Once the water tower and group have been stabilised, we urge the Council to use its powers under Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
“This has been successfully applied by other local authorities for derelict unlisted buildings in Conservation Areas. Rather than continued dereliction and decay, Warrington Civic Society want a positive outcome for the site, where these heritage assets can be harnessed to enhance the Conservation Area and the town centre as a whole We look forward to working with anybody who shares our aims,” added Mr Shipley.
Meanwhile David Garnett, grandson of the last chairman of the Cabinet Works and a retired National Trust manager has been in touch, and would be happy to contribute towards any exhibition on the history of the site.
He will also be writing a letter to the leader of the council expressing his disappointment that the buildings have been allowed to reach such a state and what a loss demolition would be.
The Civic Society have also contacted the Victorian Society, who although they don’t usually get involved before an application is submitted, will be contacting the council to ask that they are kept informed and also to state how much of a loss the building’s demolition would be.