Griff’s plea to protect heritage buildings following Tolly and Fisons fires

Griff Rhys Jones, inset, was horrified by news of the Tolly Cobbold fire. Pictures: SKY CAM EAST/SAR

Griff Rhys Jones, inset, was horrified by news of the Tolly Cobbold fire. Pictures: SKY CAM EAST/SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Sky Cam East/Sarah Lucy Brown

Griff Rhys Jones is calling for councils to do more to protect heritage buildings, following the devastating fires at the Tolly Cobbold and Fisons sites.

These dramatic aerial photos show the scale of the fire at the former Fisons site in Bramford. Pictu

These dramatic aerial photos show the scale of the fire at the former Fisons site in Bramford. Picture: SKY CAM EAST - Credit: Archant

The broadcaster, who is president of the Victorian Society, said in an open letter he was dismayed to open his EADT and 'see the Tolly Cobbold brewery, a fine set of handsome buildings which featured on the Victorian Society list of endangered buildings some while ago (a list which I helped to promote) engulfed in flames.'

He described it as 'deja vu' following the fire at Fisons fertiliser factory in Bramford last May, and said: 'Buildings under threat need strong security. They need maintenance. They need alarms and lighting. Most of all they need concerted imagination and help to be brought back into the community quickly.'

READ MORE - Open letter from Griff Rhys Jones

The society is highlighting a 'surge in vandalism on derelict Victorian buildings'.

The Grade II listed Tolly Cobbold brewery, which was badly damaged in the February blaze, featured in the society's 2015 top 10 most endangered buildings list, while the Fisons site at Bramford was on the 2017 list.

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The society has issued a warning to councils, saying: 'Our top 10 endangered buildings campaign seeks to highlight the most in danger buildings around the UK.

'Once highlighted, it is the local council's responsibility to ensure that these buildings, while lying derelict, are at least adequately secured.'

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On the subject of Fisons specifically, the society said Mid Suffolk District Council had issued warnings to improve security at the site, but commented: 'Clearly this was not enough.'

An Ipswich Borough Council spokesman said: 'We work hard to encourage the restoration of our historic buildings across the town, particularly those identified as being at risk, but the responsibility for keeping buildings secure lies with the landowner.

'However, the borough council can and does take action where necessary. We have met the owners of the former brewery site to discuss the action we expect them to take - something we also did with the old County Hall building.'

A spokesman for Mid Suffolk District Council said: 'Whilst derelict buildings remain the responsibility of their owner, we are committed to enforcing measures to ensure these buildings are adequately secured. Our Enforcement Team can and will take action where required - as we did in the case of the Fisons site - although the cost to the taxpayer means this should only ever be a last resort.

'Since the fire at Fisons, Mid Suffolk District Council has continued to take steps to ensure that local heritage is still preserved. As part of this, the site's owners are required to carry out further photographic recording of the site to be added to the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service Archive. We have also requested that they provide a programme of works, as well as their steps to review and salvage appropriate materials for re-use in any future development at the site.'

Three people were arrested following the Tolly fire - two men aged 29 and 26 who were arrested on suspicion of arson, and a 44-year-old woman who was arrested on suspicion of assisting an offender. All three were released under investigation pending further enquiries.

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