Trust volunteers survey 3,300 Leeds 'Building at Risk'
At the Trust's ‘Rebuilding our Heritage’ conference I provided an update on the main project the HAR group have been working on over the past 4 years. It all started back in 2013 as an English Heritage (EH) pilot project where they asked groups to trial ways of surveying Grade 2 listed buildings; the purpose being to record and log their condition. The Trust’s HAR group were already recording the buildings on our ‘at risk list’ and Kate Newell, from the Council’s Conservation Team, approached me to see if we’d be interested in working with them on the EH pilot.
Kate and I trained up a group of approximately 20 volunteers through a number of workshops. We talked them through examples of building defects and how these should be logged on the form to enable them to grade each building as being either ‘Not at Risk’, ‘Vulnerable’ or ‘At Risk’. Our group managed to survey 484. Following the pilot, we were invited to a feedback day and discovered that this was much more than any other group, which included professionals, other Civic groups and app developers!
Once the pilot ended, Kate and I decided to continue with the project however we tweaked the form and also decided that we would include all listed buildings within Leeds. Finally, in July this year all the surveys have been completed. That’s approximately 3,300 buildings made up of approximately 2,300 list entries.
Kate and her team are currently working through the data and I believe about 50% has been collated to date. Out of this 50% the Council’s latest report to the plans panel in June reported that there are 97 buildings at risk which equates to 4% of the listed buildings in the city. This is an increase of 8 from the same report the year before which shows just how important the surveys were as the Council are now aware of these buildings. Leeds City Council actually owns 17 of the buildings at risk!
So, what are the group’s next steps? Following feedback from our volunteers it was noted that during the surveys that some owners of listed buildings did not know what works they could and couldn’t do without permission. We are therefore currently working with the Council to produce a ‘Listed Building Owners Leaflet’. This leaflet will be aimed at all listed building owners, including those without internet access. It will provide an overview of what it means to own and live in a listed building and also provide contact details for whom to contact for further information. The Trust are kindly providing the money and the plan is to post these out to all listed building owners towards the middle of next year.
What next for the volunteers? Perhaps we could look to collate a local list? How would this work and what areas would we start with? Further discussions need to take place with the Council’s Conservation team. However, our aim will be to ensure whatever the next project is, its outcome is useful to the city. We will update once a project has been decided on but in the meantime, if you are interested in joining the HAR group or volunteering to be part of the next project, please contact the Trust.
Chair, Heritage at Risk Group