Save our architectural heritage from falling into decay

The architectural heritage of communities throughout Mid Wales is slowly being eroded as more older buildings fall into decay. That’s the warning from Conservation Architect, Doug Hughes.

His comments come after the roof of an historic former chapel in Newtown, Powys, collapsed.

Mr Hughes, who is one of just 176 Conservation Architects out of 42,000 in the UK and works on architectural projects involving listed and older buildings, said the collapse of Bethel Chapel’s roof was a stark reminder of the state of many unused older buildings throughout the region.

“We’re facing many historic and older buildings in the heart of our communities falling into a dangerous state and decaying. Bethel Chapel brings the issue to the fore where we have a well-known structure along a key road slowly falling apart in front of our eyes, to the extent that the main roof has now caved in,” said Mr Hughes of Mid Wales-based planning and building design practice, Hughes Architects.

“In this case, the town council and others had raised concerns about the state of the building. There are similar buildings around Mid Wales in similar conditions, either because they have been abandoned or neglected. In some cases, the owners simply don’t have the money to invest in them.

Historic and older buildings are part of our architectural history

“Most of these buildings are an important part of our architectural history, whether former churches, stone barns, houses or even industrial buildings. Just because they are no longer being used for their original purpose does not mean they cannot be converted for alternative uses such as residential or commercial accommodation.”

Mr Hughes said he believed a register should be set up of any historic or architecturally important structures that might be in danger of neglect or collapse.

“Planning regulations are already there to protect certain buildings. We have a listed building system in place where properties of architectural importance are registered through local authorities, such as Powys County Council. Only certain works, renovations or remodelling can take place on such buildings depending whether they’re Grade I or Grade II listed.

“Unfortunately, some buildings fall between the gap and go into disrepair.”

He said former churches and chapels could be easily converted or refurbished for domestic or commercial use. Conservation architects have the necessary knowledge and skills to work on such projects with local authority planners.

He said: “It’s not just town centre structures where we’re seeing building decay. There are many buildings, such as barns and former homes in the countryside that are disappearing. These too are important in our architectural history, landscape and townscapes.

“We need act fast on many of these buildings to save them by bringing them back into use for whatever viable purpose they can be.”