Crumbling heritage action call Town's historic buildings at risk, council is warned

Dave Clarke urgent action is needed to save some of Rotherham's best-known landmarks from crumbling beyond repair, a report has warned.

Among the historic buildings said to be "at risk due to disrepair and disuse" are Keppel's Column at Kimberworth and the 15th century former Three Cranes public house in High Street, the oldest domestic building in the town centre.

Keppel's Column, a stone folly built in 1778, was closed to the public in the 1960s. It is now fenced off because of its dangerous condition while the council pursues funding for repairs.

Last year a total of 11 listed buildings in Rotherham were entered on English Heritage's Register of Buildings at Risk.

The list includes some of the best known landmarks around the town such as Rawmarsh Rectory, Firbeck Hall, Boston Castle, Masbrough Chapel Kimberworth Manor House and the old pithead bath houses at Kiveton Park. Work is also needed on Camellia House and the riding school and stable block at Wentworth Woodhouse.

But the council says despite the growing list of problems it has to rely upon members of the public for information about buildings because it does not have a conservation officer.

Next week councillors will be asked to approve 25,000 in funding to create a new post which would allow them to produce a review of all the listed buildings at risk.

The council admits it does not know exactly how many buildings may be at risk, and needs to prioritise repairs.

"We face the real risk of listed buildings in the borough slowly deteriorating until they are beyond repair," said a report to the council's economic and development services committee. "This can then lead to collapse or an application for demolition, which is hard for the council to refuse."

Rawmarsh Rectory is the building most at risk. The council says it urgently needs restoration work estimated at 30-40,000, and is to serve an urgent works notice on the new owner of the property.

Some work has already been carried out by the new owner of the Three Cranes, who bought the former Wakefield Army Stores building at an auction in January, but experts remain worried about the long term future of the building.

Rotherham Council plans to work closely with English Heritage and funding agencies to make the two buildings a priority for repair work.

A council spokeswoman said: "We are concerned about the state of these listed buildings and want to secure funding for them but it is a long process.

"We rely on members of the public to alert us about problems. We need a dedicated member of staff to draw up a survey of the buildings most at risk.

"This would allow up to keep on top of the problems as well as giving us a clear picture of where the main problems are and what we can do about them."