Hull's landmark Lord Line trawler offices saved from demolition

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It's the building that watched over hundreds of deep-sea trawlers as they left Hull for the fishing grounds of the Atlantic.

The Lord Line company's offices were built in 1949, overlooking St Andrew's Dock where their vessels - once the world's largest deep-water fleet - berthed from 1883 until the 1970s, when the dock closed.

The Lord Line building

The Lord Line building

By 1975, the building was disused and it then fell into disrepair. Its future has been uncertain for decades.

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Now Hull City Council have rejected an application from the site owner to demolish one of the last relics of Hull's maritime heritage to make way for housing.

The plans were considered unsuitable after developers Manor Mill Resort Ltd argued that the derelict building could not be saved and was in a dangerous condition. Yet the council was not convinced that the old offices are beyond repair.

The proposals were for 40 flats and a restaurant, with a listed hydraulic tower and pump house that once powered the whole dock being converted to heat the development.

The latter part of the development was granted permission but is unlikely to go ahead as it is not viable without buildings nearby.

Although the Lord Line offices are not listed, they are on Hull City Council's own register of historically significant buildings.

There has been strong local objection to the possibility of demolition ever since plans to develop the site were first revealed in 1997.

Campaigners favour restoring the building as the focal point of a mixed-use development that connects to the city centre and opens up derelict areas of the old docklands.

Historic England and Hull Civic Society were among the stakeholders who opposed the scheme.

Adam Fowler, who was at the inaugural meeting of fishing heritage group STAND in September 1989 and was its chair until 2007, was unsuccessful in a bid to get the Lord Line building listed.

“Whilst St Andrew’s Dock and particularly the Lord Line remains in the consciousness of many people’s hearts and minds, it has in many ways become the forgotten corner of the city. Visible but slowly allowed to decay and pass by.

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“Land ownership needs to be brought under one roof and this may need to involve compulsory purchase of certain parts. Only then will this city truly honour the fishing industry and the many men who never returned.”

Lord Line - a troubled site

Previous site owners Junction first proposed demolishing the offices in the late 1990s, but reconsidered after a public backlash.

Many supporters want to see the building preserved as a memorial to trawlermen who lost their lives during the dock's operational life, and a petition was launched calling for it to be turned into a museum about the fishing industry.

Manor Property Group purchased the site in 2010 - although it went into insolvency in 2015, the business still trades using a number of other limited companies. They have erected bronze plaques at the site in memory of around 6,000 local victims of fishing disasters.

Their initial plans had been to build over 1,200 student flats, along with a memorial garden dedicated to the trawlermen. This scheme was rejected in 2012, as the site was considered to be too isolated to be used as student accommodation.

Amended planning applications were then submitted, which included extra parking, a shuttle bus and even a subway to improve connectivity, and the proposal was approved later that year.

The company said work would begin in 2013 and the project completed by 2015, but by 2016 it had still not started.

In 2014, repair notices were issued for the site, requiring Manor to board up windows and remove graffiti and waste. The council ended up completing this work themselves and billing the owners.

The building has been subjected to vandalism, trespass and arson and has become a magnet for anti-social behaviour. There have been at least four fires as well as incidents involving children climbing to the top of the abandoned structure, and further pressure was put on Manor to secure the site.

The new planning applications to demolish the offices, hydraulic tower and pump house were submitted in 2017. Manor claimed that the site was now in a dangerous state and that boarding it up would not prevent trespass. They proposed demolition as the only feasible solution.

The Victorian Society said the plans made a 'mockery' of Hull's dock heritage.