Suffolk's buildings at risk

SENIOR officers at English Heritage have warned that some of Suffolk's finest buildings could be left to rot unless there is a serious change in the amount of grant funding available.

SENIOR officers at English Heritage have warned that some of Suffolk's finest buildings could be left to rot unless there is a serious change in the amount of grant funding available.

On the day almost 30 Suffolk structures were named in the Buildings at Risk register, the East of England's historical buildings surveyor Trudi Hughes admitted there was a shortage of money to help decaying buildings.

She said: "We simply don't have the resources to tackle all the problems. Since 1994, the levels of grants nationally have fallen by 21 per cent but we continue to identify significant problems with buildings, which need to be sorted out.

"Without financial help, a lot of the buildings will continue to deteriorate slowly and at some stage in the future there has to be a change in the grants available to tackle this problem."

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Chief executive Dr Simon Thurley added: "We offered nearly £5 million in grant aid during last year, which amounts to just over one per cent of the £400 million needed to repair all the buildings on the national register.

"If more heritage resources are not made available, many of the nation's most important and vulnerable architectural icons will pass the point of no return."

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The register, aimed at identifying buildings in need of repair, included two of the regions' private schools, Moreton Hall Preparatory School and Culford School.

Both schools suffer from a similar problem with their ageing buildings in desperate need of repair.

Despite charging parents thousands of pounds to send their children to the schools, Culford Hall's bursar Mike Woolley said a cash crisis was being felt by all independent schools.

Mr Woolley said: "Contrary to popular opinion, we don't have vast amounts of investment and so we need to address the problems with our building with a great deal of forward planning.

"We are working closely with the English Heritage but we are not an organisation who can find large amounts of money for this sort of restoration.

"The building is of great regional importance and we are working towards ultimately coming off the list and restoring the building to its formal glory."

More than 200 years old, the building has unique mathematical tiling and repair priorities, including crumbling stonework and water penetration, are currently being evaluated.

At Moreton Hall, the Grade II Robert Adam House dates back to the 18th century and urgent repair works to the exterior has been identified.

The one new entry on the at-risk list is Freston Tower but it is hoped the Grade II listed building could be converted into holiday accommodation after grants from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund were secured.

While the condition of many of the buildings is described as "poor", four buildings are labelled as "very bad". These are the Drinkstone Post Mill, the ruined church in Fornham St Genevieve and the Abbey West Front and 48 Churchgate Street in Bury St Edmunds.

Five buildings have been taken off the list including the Abbey Precinct Wall, Bury St Edmunds, Old Keepers Lodge, Mildenhall, and the Isaac Lord Complex in Ipswich.

The Cupola House in Bury St Edmunds, has been heralded as a shining example of how to get off the register.

Owner Alan Romaine, who plans to turn the 17th century building into a café restaurant, said: "I think this is an example of what can be done as long as the approach is sensible in terms of your aims and that the work can be achieved in a realistic timeframe.

"It goes wrong when people try to make radical changes. In this case, we have carried out a very sympathetic restoration and we have received a lot of support from English Heritage and our local conservation officer at St Edmundsbury Borough Council."

The Cupola hosted yesterday's launch of the 2003 register to coincide with a new BBC series, Restoration, in which viewers vote to save a Building at Risk in a Pop Idol-style television show.

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