Monday, 27 April 2009

Too Lidl too late?

The now bulldozed Auld Fowler's HQ - click to enlarge

The Republic computer is throwing a hissy fit. While I'm still able to use it before it goes in for repair, it's in short bursts, so here's a briefish blog for today.

As mentioned in the Independent Republic of the Canongate blog at the weekend,

'Not worth keeping' says Historic Scotland'.

'Historic Scotland tell me what to say, and I'm not disagreeing' says The Minister.

For more history of the campaign to save the building, and further pictures:

'We can issue demolition authority as we please' says East Lothian Council Building Control. And we can ignore what the community in Prestonpans thinks.'We're elected to run their town for them. We might say in our political manifesto that we are going to listen to local communities but in practice that certainly doesn't mean we'll take their unanimous views on board. 'We should not stand in the way if Lidl seeks to maximise the profit from the lands they bought from Coeval in The Pans. The fact they said they would retain the Auld Fowler's HQ when we agreed to their present glass store on the site doesn't mean we hold them to their word.'

Historic Scotland may not have decided that it was worth listing, although many disagree, but surely a handsome building, with interesting and high-quality fixtures and fittings, as can be seen in the picture gallery via the link above, a building cherished by the local community, and now simply bulldozed, in order that these can be built:

What price sustainability, eh Lidl?

Who enjoyed the English Heritage programme on Friday?

Although it pains me to say it, as it could have been a great opportunity, and sad though possibly unsurprising that Dr Thurley came over as a tad too precious, which will simply confirm to yer average viewer that conservation is the preserve of an effete elite (when the Restoration Revisited this week showed it certainly isn't), you have to wonder why he allowed the entire thing in the first place. It was always destined to be a hatchet job, if past docusoaps of this type are anything to judge from.

Apethorpe was portrayed as a Dr T vanity project; the reality is that we have laws and planning policies in this country which are too often not put into operation, and here was a long-standing problem, a house of exceptional quality left neglected and seriously at risk. Repair orders were ignored, and the inexorable march of the long arm of the law meant that in the end the DCMS had no option other than to step in and take it into state ownership.

It was never going to be an easy one, as there is little land, a far from grand access, not really in the most desirable location, and it still requires a vast pot of cash spending on it.

The recent history is a difficult one, but really, a house of this importance did not need to be kept in any sort of institutional use, converted into flats, have 'enabling development' encroaching on it, and I have no problem with what has, in the end, happened.

(Take some of that with a pinch of salt...)

The inspector concluded that none of the developer's proposals would safeguard the hall and the order was confirmed.

If the place has to be mothballed until the right buyer is found, considering the current economic climate, then OK, although I understand it is rumoured that there are a couple of seriously interested buyers in the offing. It may be that the buyer will also want to repay the grant aid spent, but if not, the public will have access for 28 days a year, and a piece of history has been retained, beautifully repaired (with more to do I accept) rather than being the target for yet another 'mystery fire'.

For Apethorpe the movie see here:

Summer 2009 tours, and a great deal more info from English Heritage:

So in this humble opinion, the slighting comments about the insistence of using the correct local Collyweston roofing stone, and making it sound as though using lime plaster and wooden floats conservation barminess, were just cheap shots to make the average TV viewer sneer at the 'waste' of public cash. Is this country's leading heritage organisation supposed to have used concrete tiles and Polyfilla? What's wrong with the correct materials and fine craftsmanship? Or should the Lidl approach - pile 'em high sell 'em cheap and to hell with heritage - be what is required in the new soulless Britain of the 21st century?

Memory Lane 1971 for Auld Fowler's HQ
Those were the days . Auld Fowler's HQ looking every bit the part in 1971 - photograph thanks to Sinclair Macleod, whose family were the last owners of The Scottish Salt Company producing Prestonpans Salt. Handsome looking brewery buildings too. Wonder why all our history was demolished? No sign of Lidl's fine new store.

You do wonder though:


All the excitement is about the double-cross proposed from Lidl and Taylor Wimpey's G2 way back in 2007. They applied then for Planning Consent to East Lothian Council to knock down the Auld Fowler's HQ and build 50+ low cost flats. That's the same Auld Fowler's Building as they successfully argued was an integral design element when they applied for permission to build their new glass supermarket next door - which is incidentally a very fine store inside.

Their proposal to demolish led to:

1. An application by the Arts Festival for Listing which Historic Scotland [HS] rejected on very unsafe grounds indeed, point blank refusing to consider historical significance despite the requirements of the Act;

2. That rejection led to a Petition at Holyrood to reform the way Historic Scotland works, which is still ongoing;

3. Requests to the Scottish Information Commissioner [one upheld and the second ongoing] on how Historic Scotland works when it advises Ministers;

4. An application by 800 signatories [10% of the town's population] for Community Right to Buy the property.N.B. The full story so far is documented @ the Arts Festival website linked here


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