The strange reason that prevented the protection of this historic building in Walsall

The Walsall Historic Center site will not be listed for fear it will suffer the same fate as other historic buildings – all of which have been burned down.

Members of the Walsall Council planning committee have decided that the nearly 120-year-old Essex Street building will become a handicap and hamper prospects for future development if it is put on the local list.

The building had already been put on the market before it was taken down, with officials saying it might be worth giving it status.

READ MORE: Covid infections double in one week in Walsall in shocking statistics

Walsall Council Chief Mike Bird said the building could be the target of arsonists and squatters if listed but left empty, citing examples of Shannon’s Mill Historic Site in George Street, the Boak Building in Station Street and Jabez Cliff in Lower Forster Street. all of which have been destroyed by fire in the past 15 years.

He also said the authority was unable to carry out work to improve the ventilation of the council chamber due to the listed status of the building.

At Thursday’s meeting (January 6), committee members said the site would be ideal for housing as it is in the middle of a predominantly residential area.

The Walsall Local History Center has been moved to the Central Library in the city center. The old Essex Street base is on the same site as the Abu Bakr School, which is also empty and currently on the market.

The old Jabez Cliff site in Lower Forster Street, Walsall, before it was set on fire.

It was built in 1904 and was originally the North Walsall Junior and Infants School. The history center opened on the site in 1986.

Planning officers had recommended using part of the £ 70,000 allocated to the authority of the Department of Upgrading, Housing and Communities Local Heritage List Fund to grant status to the site.

Councilor Bird said: “Yes it is a beautiful building. But I find it hard to see what it could be used for other than its previous use which was a school, which now would not pass the mustard with. Ofsted.

“I have interviewed agents who have said they would be willing to see residences here, but of course as soon as you list something it can become a handicap.

“If you look around, listed buildings were set on fire because they were empty. Jabez Cliff was one, the former George Street leather factory, Boak building, continues.

The old Boak factory on Station Street, Walsall before it burned down.
The old Boak factory on Station Street, Walsall before it burned down.

“The nationally listed Aldridge barn has been burned down once or twice and repair costs amounted to £ 56,000 just to get it back to where it was, which had been derelict.

“We have a duty as an authority to prosecute people who do not take care of their listed buildings, we also fall into this area.

“You have all the pain but none of the gains in my opinion. My worry is that when you put it on, someone says ‘oh let’s set this on fire’.

“This was an auction that was supposed to be sold by city council but was pulled at the last minute because someone said it might be worth listing.”

Councilor Suky Samra, a committee member, said: “I think we need to find out where this building is in a residential area.

“We have to look at future uses and if we were to list this locally then it would cause problems for future buyers when they come before the planning committee trying to convert this.

“Yes we got £ 70,000 but I think we’re rushing that. We need to think more about what properties we have in this town and what we need locally.

“By listing it locally, this one will totally put off any potential buyers and any future development and it will just become another abandoned building that will be vandalized by fire and we will have to foot the bill.”

And Councilor Khizar Hussain added: “If we stick to it by listing it, it will be difficult for us.

“Many empty buildings in the past that were abandoned in the past for a long time were set on fire and caused great damage.

“I am of the opinion that we should not list it and have more options open in the future for other routes.”

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