Caring for our Heritage Buildings

Visitors to the Beckenham Public Halls have long been aware it was in urgent need of some TLC. In January the Council released a tender to take on the lease of the Public Halls and this revealed the true extent of the lack of care the Council have taken over this 1883 heritage building.  

There is a £400k backlog of maintenance.  In addition, the Council’s own appraisal indicates that many of the building elements will not meet their end of life because “they have deteriorated to the extent that they require replacement within” their life span.  The Conservative-led Council has let this much loved building deteriorate and ignored years of essential maintenance which now means it would cost up in excess of £1m to address the backlog of maintenance and bring the building up to standard.

As custodians of our public buildings it is unarguably wrong for the Council to stop caring for them. How many other community buildings have they let deteriorate to such a level they claim they can no longer afford to maintain them?  Is this a valid cost saving measure - to fail to maintain a public building for many years and then sell it off?

In the case of the Beckenham Public Halls, the Council has advised whoever takes on the lease will have to provide a measly 15% for public use. The groups and clubs that use the halls can only hope that the Council will protect their interests and the new provider will provide enough room for them at affordable rates.