Community Assets in Difficult Ownership seeks to raise awareness of buildings which are precious to local communities, but which the owners seem to have no interest in sorting out.

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The CADO project has hit a nerve! The acronym stands for Community Assets in Difficult Ownership AND Campaign Against Delinquent Ownership (and I pronounce it ‘caddo’). We’re working with 10 demonstrator projects – buildings that are precious to local communities but are stuck due to their ownership. We provide expert support, small grants and lots of mutual learning. We have developed a set of policy recommendations that would support communities and councils rescue buildings from the limbo of difficult ownership.

Below are a list of our current projects, and you can read more on the CADO site.

London Road Fire Station, Manchester : empty since 1991
A massive, beautiful golden-red building with incredible detailing. A hymn to Victorian public-mindedness located within yards of Manchester Piccadilly station.

Built between 1904 and 1906 the station was conceived by fire chief George Parker who described it as ‘the finest in the world’. It also housed a police station, ambulance station and firemen and their families. It took its last emergency call in 1986. Bought by Brittania Hotels but left empty ever since. In 2011 the City Council attempted but lost a CPO when the owner argued they were about to develop it, but immediately afterwards announced that it was ‘unviable’ for the foreseeable future. The costs of the CPO were awarded against Manchester City Council by the Secretary of State.Friends of LRFS have brought the building back into the public eye and the council are now considering a second CPO attempt.

Holywell Inn, Halifax : closed Dec 31st 2011

A traditional local Yorkshire pub that went the same way as many others.

The Holywell Inn stands proudly at the top of a steep hill in this traditional Pennine village. Since 1822 it has been the social & geographic centre of the village – and was a buoyant thriving business. The decline began when Whitbread sold it to a major pub company. There was little or no investment and subsequently the pub fell into the ownership of a property developer.

The owner wants to convert the building into six flats but the community feel they will lose their only interaction centre if this is allowed to happen. The community vision is much more than a pub. They see this to be the social hub of the village – but in a unique way. All profits from the commercial venture will fund community services and facilities the village desperately needs.

Leas Club, Folkestone : closed in 2006

A rare example of a purpose-built Edwardian high class tearoom. Built 1902 with terracotta frontage and Art Nouveau features, during WW1 farewell concerts were held for the troops embarking for France.

From the mid-1920s untll 1984, the Leas Club Pavilion was a professional repertory theatre, as well as tea rooms.

The land is owned by the Folkestone Estate and leased to Warburtons who ran it as a successful family pub until 2006. They have sub-leased to Churchgate Developers. A 2008 planning application was for a leisure centre with 68 flats above (and 25 off-site affordable units).

With no progress so far in difficult market conditions, the application has been mothballed with a provisional approval. Meanwhile the site continues to deteriorate and there is no sign of serious repairs underway.

South Parade Pier, Portsmouth : closed in 2012

A classic tale of disreputable private owners and council inaction, as well as the difficulty for communities when ‘new owners’ appear on the scene.

Opened in 1879, the pier has played a key role in local history. Local people watched Titanic sail past in 1912 and in 1944 troops embarked for the D-Day landings. The pier has hosted both political and musical idols. Owned since 2010 by people with criminal convictions for horse theft and assault and associated with the Lapland New Forest Christmas funfair scam, the operating companies have been kept separate from the asset ownership.

South Parade Trust has a petition of over 12,500 people who want the council to issue a Repairs Notice laying down the expectations for any owner to undertake repairs for the long-term preservation of the pier.

Old Town Hall, Sheffield : empty since 1997

Historic and imposing, Sheffield’s first town hall is crucial to the regeneration of the Castlegate area.

Also served as a Magistrates Court from early on, later became the Crown Court and underground tunnels were added linking it to Sheffield Police Offices. This was the location of the 1867 Royal Commission which led to the legalisation of Trade Unions.

The building had already been empty for eight years when it was bought from central government by G1 London Properties, a small private company. There were no loans secured on the building at March 2013 but the value of the company’s assets seems to fluctuate significantly from year to year.

A new group, Friends of Old Town Hall has been established to consider a range of uses. The nearby National Emergency Services Museum is interested in expanding into the building.

Frank James Hospital, Isle of Wight : empty since 2002

Lovely cottage hospital in excellent location. Originally gifted to the people of East Cowes and housed retired seamen.

Built in 1903 in the Dutch Style as a memorial to Frank James who did much travelling to Africa in his yacht and was killed by an elephant in 1890. The wind vane on top of the hospital is a model of James’ yacht.

Sold by the NHS Trust in 2002, the site has a group of individual owners who apparently bought into it as an investment scheme. A street of ‘enabling development’ was permitted but did not lead to a solution for the building, which is currently on the UK Buildings at Risk register. The Friends, formed in March 2012, have been holding monthly clean-ups, guerrilla gardening and protecting the building. Officers had been wrongly advising that it is impossible to take enforcement action when a new planning application has been submitted.

North Wales Hospital, Denbigh : closed in 1995

Completed in 1848 this huge site was home to 200 mentally ill patients, and boasted of using the ‘newest techniques’.

Part of Thatcher’s 1980s hospital closure programme, the 50-acre site was eventually bought in 1998 for £175,000 by a Gerald Hitman in a private deal with the Secretary of State.

Once Denbighshire County Council (DCC) began enforcement to protect the Grade II* listed building, Hitman put it up for auction in London and it was bought by Acebench nvestments Ltd. An initial planning permission in 2006 included a bond underwritten by Lloyds TSB and after the permission lapsed with no progress DCC received £1.9m. They have tackled the original building, removing asbestos and rotten timber and installing a new temporary roof structure. They are now moving towards compulsory purchase, despite the uncertainties around compensation.

Carriageworks, Bristol : empty since 1979

Carriageworks Action Group, Bristol:
Community influence in the planning process

The focus of the Carriageworks Action Group is a site in central Bristol that has been empty since 1982 and is known as “one of Bristol’s biggest eyesores”. It comprises two primary buildings: the Carriageworks building which is historically significant, Grade II* and on the buildings “at risk” register; and Westmoreland House, a 6 storey 1960s concrete frame office building, last occupied in 1982 by the Football Pools Company. The buildings and surrounding land have been owned by the Comer Group, a large private property owner/developer, since the late 1980s. In 1989, Comer Group were granted planning permission for the development of 63 flats, offices and underground parking. This was never built and Comer Group have made subsequent planning applications which have been rejected by the Planning Authority, and at Appeal.

The site is located in a complex area. Close to Bristol City Centre, it fronts onto Stokes Croft, and its dereliction has influenced the cultural development of that area. It also borders St Pauls which is one of the most deprived areas in Bristol (and in the 10% most deprived areas in England), and Montpelier, Cotham and Kingsdown, each of which has a distinct culture and demography. The dereliction of the site impacts negatively on all of the communities that surround it, generating many voices. Some are louder and more persistent than others, but all have strong views about how to address the dereliction.

In 2011, Bristol City Council (BCC) received significant funding from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to “do something” that would lead to the development of the long derelict site. The current Carriageworks Action Group (CAG) was set up BCC, to bring together the diverse communities impacted by the dereliction of the site, in order to create a community led plan for its redevelopment. CAG is a broad alliance of local residents from St Pauls, Montpelier, Kingsdown, Cotham and Stokes Croft, business owners and people from local organisations working with Bristol City Council to address the dereliction of the Carriageworks and Westmoreland House site. It is not a formal or a membership organisation, but it has a growing email list and active website through which it keeps people informed about what is happening with the development. CAG has been aided by its genuine and enabling partnership with BCC, and the backing of the HCA grant, which has enabled the Council to provide resources for CAG, and which has created a strong Council buy in, including both Officer and Cabinet support. Even in an area with committed and active residents, the achievement of solutions needs effective resourcing.

Download a summary report here.

Download the full report here.


Hastings Pier : Saved!

Closed in 2006 by the council for safety reasons, its Panama-based owner Ravenclaw abandoned it with an outstanding £1.8m mortgage.

A ‘dogged and persistent’, and highly successful, community campaign led Hastings Borough Council to compulsory purchase with a back-to-back agreement. The trust raised £14 million and the renewed pier is due to reopen in 2015.

Rose & Young site, Caterham : Empty since 1985

Art deco curves all boarded up right in the centre of an affluent south-eastern high street.

Previously an upmarket Mercedes garage and originally built for the Rootes family who manufactured classic cars.The showroom has since passed through several owners at a time when town centre changes were contemplated but never materialised. The current owner apparently still collects rent in the area but doesn’t appear to think he has any responsibility to deal with the blighted site.

After years of hoping the problem would go away, the council set up a working group in parallel with local action groups. They are now working together to promote a CPO which will lead to the redevelopment of this important site, aligned with the emerging neighbourhood plan.

Archway Central Hall, Islington : empty Since 1989

The last Central Hall to be built in London, replacing an 1873 mission. Funded by the Methodist movie-mogul J Arthur Rank, the Hall was built in 1934 and features a 1300 seat auditorium.

The last use of the Hall was for the late 1980s public inquiry into the A1 road widening. The Methodists then consolidated into part of the site, leaving the main Hall empty before selling it in 2001.

Said to be owned by an unresponsive offshore company based in Gibraltar, it was recently marketed by Kingsbury on ‘reduced terms… due to abortive negotiations’.

The Better Archway Forum would like to see it restored as an arts venue and are working to bring together a consortium of arts organisations, both professional and amateur.