Herald Express (Torbay, Brixham & South Hams Edition)

Proud villas left to crumble due to neglect


✒ THE Herald Express recently reported on the Hotel Virginia planning applicatio­n refusal.

Architect Daniel Metcalfe remarked that “we can’t simply say that because something is old it demands preservati­on. This is a highly defective, rotten building.”

Mr Metcalfe is a qualified member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, naming himself as a conservati­on architect as an AABC (Architects Accredited in Conservati­on of Buildings).

However Historic England strongly recommends the gold standard Institute of Historic Building Conservati­on (IHBC) qualificat­ion as essential for a heritage advisor to give quality counsel on preserving and enhancing buildings like the Hotel Virginia, situated in a protected conservati­on area.

Mr Metcalfe’s assertion “this is a highly defective rotten building” suggests his client is not paying heed to Heritage England guidelines on managing risk to vacant historic buildings which states the best way to protect a building is to keep it occupied, even if the use is on a temporary or partial basis.

This highlights a current malaise by some owners of Victorian villas in Torquay, later converted to hotels. Owners today wish to engage a willing architect to profit by a major residentia­l redevelopm­ent on a cleared site, regardless of the building’s significan­t cultural heritage, by not carrying out good elementary house-keeping to reduce the risk of deteriorat­ion or damage. Keeping the building secure is the owner’s responsibi­lity. It can be imagined some are even hopeful for a fire as, notoriousl­y, at the Shedden Hall Hotel.

That hotel became derelict in 2012 and since then had been entered and vandalised by delinquent­s and damaged by a number of fires, eventually becoming that highly defective rotten building.

Then, still inadequate­ly protected from trespasser­s, it was destroyed in a major fire, clearing the way for a planning applicatio­n. A similar scenario of neglect and fire is playing out at the unoccupied Victorian Coppice Hotel.

Torquay’s planning authority has often ‘rewarded’ an irresponsi­ble owner by allowing an incongruou­s new design in a designated conservati­on area.

At the Hotel Virginia, a refusal was appropriat­e in again, a conservati­on area. Mervyn Seal, chairman

Torbay Heritage Trust

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