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House of Lords criticism over Foster Hall demolition is ignored

By CG_Oscar  |  Posted: July 30, 2013

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STINGING criticism in the House of Lords and a last-gasp effort to save Bodmin’s Foster complex have fallen on deaf ears.

The impending demolition of the former St Lawrence’s Hospital building, designed by Cornish architect Silvanus Trevail, prompted the Foster Hall Revival Trust to team up with the Cornish Buildings Group to mount a final campaign.

In the Lords last week Baroness Northover called the building unique, while Nicholas Trench, Earl of Clancarty, said its demolition was pure vandalism and an inadequate planning system allowed important heritage assets to be destroyed without planning permission or public consultation.

Yesterday, however, Community First Cornwall (CFC), which owns the building, and its leaseholder, the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CFT) remained adamant the complex had to go.

The Cornish Buildings Group has three times failed to persuade English Heritage to list the complex, a move backed by organisations including the Ancient Monuments Society and Save Britain’s Heritage.

Paul Holden, chairman of the Cornish Buildings Group, said: ‘The hospital is a local landmark, a very fine piece of architecture and key to the town’s social identity.

“It’s a great tragedy that in this age of ‘localism’ the voice of local communities is ignored and, when ‘sustainability’ is at the forefront of social and economic debate, that good-quality architecture cannot be reused for residential or commercial purposes.

“This is a great loss to Cornwall, a great social loss for Bodmin and the needless obliteration of a rare building type. English Heritage has shown an appalling ignorance of provincial architectural style and the concept of localism.”

Dr James Whetter, chairman of the Silvanus Trevail Society, said: “They are an important part of Cornwall’s heritage and should be valued in the same way as the Duchy Palace at Lostwithiel, which has been recently restored by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust and the Cornwall Buildings Preservation Trust.”

The Foster Hall Revival Trust has just published a colourful booklet on the building seeking countywide support to save it, describing it as “the jewel in Bodmin’s crown”.

In a joint statement, CFT and CIC said talks with the Foster Hall Revival Trust a year ago to come up with a scheme to revive it had yielded no substantive proposals.

“The Foster Hall Revival Trust have now suggested that they may take part of the site into their ‘care’ at a ‘peppercorn rent’,” it said. “Again, this is not a formal offer and we understand that there is neither funding nor a sustainable business plan to support it.

“This is not a viable proposal. In addition, the retention of a large part of the centre of the site would have a significant impact on the land value and should any such lease fall away we would once again be left with derelict buildings and ongoing security costs and funds being diverted from frontline patient care.

“English Heritage has been given several opportunities to preserve the site but, for reasons it has fully explained, considers that this is not necessary.”

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