Council leaders in Stoke-on-Trent have said they will take a ‘zero tolerance’ approach towards owners of historic buildings who allow them to fall into neglect.
This comes after the successful prosecutions of the owners of the Falcon Pottery works in Stoke and the former Central Hotel in Burslem.
Council leader Abi Brown said, “These cases send a strong message to owners of heritage buildings in our city. We are serious when we say we are declaring a zero-tolerance stance on the maintenance of privately-owned heritage sites”.
Concern has been expressed about the lack of a policy to protect historic buildings in the city, many of which have been allowed to fall into neglect by absentee owners.
Earlier this year the Sentinel newspaper published a list of 13 buildings in the city that were at risk of ‘fading into the history books’, including the former Bell and Bear pub in Shelton and the Middleport Flour Mill.
A fire causing severe damage to the Leopard pub in Burslem town centre, a building dating from the 18th century where pottery pioneer Josiah Wedgewood met with other local luminaries to discuss building the areas canal network also focused public attention on the state of the city’s historic buildings.
Council faces criticism but brings successful prosecutions
Attempts to respond to the problem by the city council met with criticism when the Heritage Network, who represent 30 local groups including the Potteries Heritage Society, were excluded from the first meeting of a Stoke-on-Trent Heritage Congress.
Diwan Property Development Service, the owners of the Falcon Works were fined £1000 and ordered to pay an additional £800 in legal costs for failing to comply with a Section 215 notice.
This requires them to carry out work including cutting back foliage and repairing a crumbling bottle kiln on the site.
Mahmood Anwar Yaqub, the owner of the Central Hotel was fined £59,800 and ordered to pay full costs after previously being convicted in March 2021 for failing to carry out urgent repairs.
Speaking about the verdicts Abi Brown said “Falcon Works is a Grade II listed property, and the former Crown Hotel is an iconic building in a conservation area. Companies and individuals who purchase heritage assets in the city must do the right thing with them”.
The city council were, she said, “exceptionally proud of our heritage in Stoke-on-Trent and, as these prosecutions show, we will take action, using the planning powers at our disposal, against people who purchase heritage assets and then allow them to deteriorate.”