A view from...

Tamsin Daniel, Commissioning & Project Development Officer (Economic Development & Culture), Cornwall Council

The challenge of bringing historic buildings back into economic use…

Renovating historic buildings makes economic and environmental sense [1].  Historic buildings create a sense of distinctiveness, attracting businesses working in the most highly productive parts of the economy, namely the professional services and the creative and cultural sector[2], especially entrepreneurs, business start-ups and independent non-branded businesses.

Cornwall Council has the largest number of statutory protected Heritage Assets in the care of any local authority.  This includes owning 29 Grade I and II* Listed buildings on English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk Register.  Three of these buildings on the Register are at King Edward Mine - but with over £1m from the ERDF Convergence Programme, two of these Grade II* Listed buildings will soon be brought back to life as high quality workspaces.

Conservation and refurbishment projects of this nature are not without their challenges – and discovering a mine shaft under the end of one of the buildings at King Edward Mine continues to be the most problematic.  After test drilling from outside the building to determine the shaft’s position, we had to get English Heritage’s permission to dismantle that end of the building – marking up each stone so that the building could be re-erected exactly as it had been.

Then there’s the sourcing of second-hand roofing slates so that we can reinstate the slate roofs laid in diminishing courses, dealing with rotting timber structures and crumbling mortar in the walls, bringing new services to the site via a long trench through mining archaeology …oh, we also found that we had a small common pipistrelle bat roost!   

Despite the constraints and challenges posed by the Grade II* listing, significant improvements to the building’s environmental performance are being made and the buildings will be adapted to ensure a high level of accessibility.  The end result is a project which successfully balances the requirement to safeguard the special interest of these Grade II* Listed buildings and the Outstanding Universal Value of the site with the equality and diversity objectives of the Convergence Programme. 

Cornwall Council’s approach is progressive.  Rather than preserving the site as a relic, the Council has adopted English Heritage’s best practice[3] and applied the principles of constructive conservation to the KEM site to find suitable productive new uses for these two redundant Grade II* Listed buildings – thereby securing their long-term economic future.

[1] Demolition and construction accounts for 24% of the total waste produced in the UK and demolishing old buildings uses more energy than refurbishing them (research undertaken by English Heritage and the Heritage Council)

[2] New ideas need Old Buildings, Heritage Lottery Fund, 2013

[3] Easy Access to Historic Buildings, English Heritage, 2012

Monday 29 September 2014