Historic England hails progress in rescuing heritage at risk in the North West

Posted by on 16 Nov 2021

Image: Historic England hails progress in rescuing heritage at risk in the North West

Over the last year, significant progress has been made with historic buildings and sites in the North West. Places which were added to the Register in previous years because of their deteriorating condition now have a bright future thanks to the hard work and dedication of local communities, who have come together to rescue places despite the challenges wrought by the Covid-19 pandemic over the past 18 months. Charities, owners, local councils and Historic England have also worked together to see historic places restored, re-used and brought back to life.

Rochdale’s town centre conservation area includes a number of historic buildings, many of which are listed.  The town’s conservation area was added to the Register in 2013 after suffering many years of a lack of maintenance, loss of historical details, and a high number of vacant buildings.  Historic England, Rochdale Council, Rochdale Development Agency and other local partners set up a Heritage Action Zone in 2018 to provide grants for repairs to buildings, encourage economic regeneration and re-engage residents, businesses and visitors with the town’s rich industrial and social heritage.

Rochdale was a textile boom town during the Industrial Revolution, and from its many mills sprang the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society, regarded as the founders of the world-renowned co-operative movement.  This heritage is now being harnessed to help regenerate the town centre and a new Co-operative Enterprise Hub has opened in a prominent previously vacant building.  A new generation of Rochdale Pioneers is being nurtured, with young people given access to advice and training, as well as providing both publicly accessible retail space and private office space to allow the fledgling co-operatives to operate. 

The curved terrace of shops on the corner of South Parade and Drake Street is a distinctive feature of the route between Rochdale’s train station and the town centre. These buildings had fallen into decline until repair grants were provided through the Heritage Action Zone.  As well as helping local businesses and improving the living conditions for the residents above the commercial units, Rochdale’s Town Centre Conservation Area is being enhanced, making the town a more attractive place to visit and invest in. 

More is still to be achieved with Rochdale Council and the RDA undertaking further work with building owners to find new uses for vacant buildings and grants are being awarded for repairs to more historic buildings.  The Council is also developing information and advice for visitors and building owners alike, who wish to find out more about the town’s historic buildings and how best to conserve them for future generations. 

Catherine Dewar, Historic England’s North West Regional Director, said: “Our heritage is an anchor for us all in testing times. Despite the challenges we have faced recently, this year’s Heritage at Risk Register demonstrates that looking after and investing in our historic places can contribute to the country’s economic recovery, bring communities together and help tackle climate change by avoiding carbon emissions from building new. The amazing progress made this year in the North West shows what’s possible with strong partnerships, dedicated individuals and funding support. But there is always more to do to give our cherished historic places the attention, investment and secure future they deserve.”

With the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 currently underway in Glasgow, this is an even more important moment to underline how heritage can play a role in reducing carbon emissions. Reusing those historic buildings and places rescued from the Register this year can help to tackle climate change by avoiding the high carbon emissions associated with demolishing existing structures and building new. To meet the government’s target of being carbon neutral by 2050, we know we must recycle, reuse and responsibly adapt our existing historic buildings.

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