Sunday, 2 November 2014

19 Hawley Square break ins

In the last week, we've sadly had to report a spate of break-ins at 19 Hawley Square. The building is Grade II listed and was, in better days,  The London Hotel. The building had previously had been sold to a housing association, then later becoming part of the portfolio of Orbit South. I've previously reported about Orbit South's failed attempts to get planning permission for conversion to tiny one bed flats and bedsits that were below their own minimum space standards. The purpose they stated at meetings with residents, was to obtain planning permission before selling on the property for the benefit of Orbit South's overall portfolio. 

Thanet District Council purchased back the building in 2011 from Orbit South for £75,000 to "bring a derelict building back into use and allow the Theatre Royal to expand its operations."  Earmarking 19 Hawley Square for the Theatre Royal has been the Council's stated intention for quite a few years. However, these intentions seem to have been ongoing for years and all the while a Grade II listed building is falling into ever greater disrepair. The building has substantial water ingress and dry rot. It's clear this situation shouldn't be allowed to continue indefinitely.

One has to wonder why Orbit South, allowed the listed 19 Hawley Square to fall into such a serious state of disrepair knowing its status as a designated heritage asset. The public may well now ask themselves how this affects Thanet District Council, who by buying the building have taken on the responsibility of the consequences of neglect. Depressingly, this was my post on the news of the Theatre's plans for the building back in 2011 and also Orbit South's Managing Director, Vivien Knibbs, also 2011. 

This is the third Grade II Listed large scale Georgian building on Hawley Square that is standing in a sorry state for years, exposed to the elements with seemingly no end in sight. 47, and 48-49 have both stood like gaping teeth having suffered arson attacks.
But these are Listed buildings. There is legislation to enforce their upkeep and protection from willful neglect. They are, by way of their listed status, eligible for funding. The Council purchased 19 Hawley Square in a bad state of repair and in the ensuing years the condition has worsened through lack of maintenance and repair. 

The Council list the property on their asset list:
19 Hawley Square is item 712, and is curiously listed as 'freehold and occupied'! The building has been empty for years.

Returning to this week's spate of break ins.

Worryingly, at the beginning of last week, children were seen entering the building at night with flashlights. This poses an obvious health and safety risk given the poor state of the building.

Today, two men were seen entering the building with a metal crow bar. They'd climbed up the scaffolding and entered through the easily accessible windows on the first floor.

Police attended and later this evening a Thanet Council Building Control Officer. The police contacted the company advertising on the scaffolding as responsible for security. The company stated their alarm, which didn't appear to work, was in place to protect the scaffolding and not the building.
Tonight the rain continues to fall into the buildings left with insufficient roof coverage.
Some may wonder how the Council's planning department can require of the public a standard of care for heritage assets in the face of this ongoing situation?

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