The very first thing a train visitor sees when they enter Cornwall over Brunel’s landmark bridge is a deserted and un-kept building, overgrown with weeds and vandalised. Despite attempts by the Cornish Buildings Group to get an Urgent Repairs Notice issued for Saltash station nothing has been done for years. Yet, the old station is not the only Cornish building in peril. Our group has long campaigned for St Columb Rectory, one of the most important listed buildings in the county, which too has been left to rot for five years. If remedial work to make good a hole in the roof and remove vegetation was done when the Cornish Buildings Group first approached Cornwall Council three years ago the cost of repairs would have reduced tenfold. The Victorian Society has also made this a high profile case, a case officer has written to Cornwall Council stating ‘Rather than a legal duty of care towards the building which has been the focus of recent correspondence, we would rather wish to stress the moral and community duty of Cornwall Council to ensure the preservation of this nationally significant building. The Bishop’s Palace at St Columb Major is a treasure of Cornwall, and its loss, which is daily becoming an ever more likely scenario, would be a serious one for the county and the nation’. The Chief Executive of Cornwall Council has refused to comment.
Other high profile buildings in key tourist destinations are also being neglected. The Grade 1 Listed Market House in Penzance is suffering through neglect, as is one of the most important Georgian buildings in Cornwall, Marlborough House in Falmouth. The Victorian Society and Georgian Group have shown interest in these two buildings but again Cornwall Council has failed to enforce repairs notices or comment on their states of disrepair.
Paul Holden, Chairman of the group, said ‘The Cornish Buildings Group exists to promote good architectural design and champion the historic environment. We have to carefully consider what are appropriate styles of architecture in historically sensitive areas and we have look after what is already there, after all it is what drives our visitor economy. What will tourists think when they see iconic buildings in various states of disrepair, boarded up and neglected’. Mr Holden added ‘Cutbacks at Cornwall Council have meant many requests go unanswered and in consequence some historic buildings are being left open to the elements. Mithian’s church at Chiverton Cross, Blackwater, has holes in the roof and smashed stained glass panels while in Penzance and St Columb shop fronts are left in various states of dilapidation creating frustration for residents and visitors alike’.
Neglect is not the only threat to our historic environment. The latest proposals for planning permission to replace a historic foot bridge at St Erth Station (left) with suburban commuter style lift towers, 35’ high, is another crass and unsubtle attempt to get rid of an important and (so-far) unspoilt group of Listed buildings of the late 19th century. John Stenglehofen, Vice Chairman of the Group, said ‘The Cornish Buildings Group like the Parish Council and English Heritage are far from happy with the proposals. Following the refusal of an earlier attempt, with 200 yards of ramps and landings zigzagging up to a new bridge and obliterating a prominent area of trees, the second attempt shows the continuing inability of Network Rail to respect the Listed Building status of the group which comprises a historically significant and charming station whose rarity and its importance is widely recognised nationally. There seems to be a general inability by Network Rail’s consultants to look at non-standard solutions, but this is the only way an acceptable solution can be found for a unique Listed site; we have seen two unacceptable attempts that have delayed the project and increased costs, not least the professional fees for abortive work that never justified more than a first sketch, let alone their development to a full planning application’.
Mr Holden concluded ‘It is vital that we care for all our historic assets and consider how good design can contribute to Cornwall’s aesthetic wellbeing. Of course one thing that affects both is the many wind turbine applications that are getting approval which clearly has a huge adverse effect on the landscape and setting of historic buildings.’