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Foster Hall's fate 'shows talk of localism is a lie'

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: July 31, 2013

NO HOPE: Last-ditch protests have failed to save the building, described as "the jewel in Bodmin's crown".

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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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  • localteacher  |  September 04 2013, 7:07PM

    I used to live near to a similar building with a similar style and history to go with it, in Dorset. It wasn't listed, yet the local developers took it upon themselves to convert it into high end apartments, which sold for strong money. I'm a native Cornishman, living back in the Duchy once again. Why on earth is this allowed to happen? It seems absolutely anything goes as far as buildings, planners and retention of out heritage goes. If in doubt knock it down, it would seem. A very sad waste indeed, fuelled by money-hungry site developers and a 'don't give a damn' attitude from the site owners. Congratulations to the aforementioned. Another of Sylv**** Trevail's architectural gems lost to the ball and chain.

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  • break  |  August 02 2013, 1:32AM

    English Heritage won't list anything without consent from the Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (at least that was the title in 2008) as English-Heritage are the Governments statutory advisor in the historic environment with responsability for listing.From what I've found,English-Heritage are a waste of time,I've found a few boundary stones which English-Heritage won't list,although they did list boundary stones a while ago.Figure that out.

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  • shagrats  |  August 01 2013, 8:46AM

    To quote Bradley "Care is the priority not playing antiques road show" But the solid local example I gave is where people are promised a new development, so it made "no sense" to not pull down the beautiful, yet currently functionless heritage building, and then the developer just says " I'm not doing what I said and tough" so we are left, as in the case of St Austell police station, with a massive great eyesore where once was one of the landmark buildings of St Austell. Or as a second example You only have to see the debacle of the Colliseium at Crinnis beach showing Developers having a completely different agenda, than a care for the community. I get the feeling these sites can be like money in the bank, as a going concern the building is probably worth more in scrap and land than it is as a whole. However is there really nothing that could be done with this beautiful building, are we so at a loss for ideas in this county, or is it really is, people who may have a viable use for this building are just shut out from the debate or the debate is behind closed doors. With a little more effort and a little more compromise this could easily be a viable building. If they want to sell it to me for a pepercorn price. I would gladly move my buisness into it and keep it going. And yes I am sure I would make money off it.

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  • Big_Ger  |  July 31 2013, 8:24PM

    cweatherill shows the divisive nature of Cornish nationalism once again.

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  • BradleyJJS  |  July 31 2013, 7:20PM

    For the seasoned moaners, put your money where your big mouths are, there is no bottomless money pit and everyone's knows you will always find stuff to moan about so it is a no brainer to ignore, the follow excerpt from the above tells me all I need to know. "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 on-going security costs and funds being diverted from frontline patient care." Care is the priority not playing antiques road show

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  • cweatherhill  |  July 31 2013, 5:24PM

    The ignorant, uncaring attitude of "English" Heritage towards Cornish hertiage comes as no surprise whatsoever. EH's record in this Duchy has been appalling since the sad day the quango came into being.

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  • shagrats  |  July 31 2013, 8:13AM

    This will be vandalisim if this is torn down. It reminds me of the Old Police Station in St Austell, a beautiful granite victorian building, torn down about 10 years ago, to make way for a budlia infested dump/car park. It has completely runined the view up what was one of the most original victorian streets in St Austell. This race to tear something down to make way for god knows what is just plain wrong !. However it sounds like another unwanted out of town supermarket complex is coming Bodmins way. Sell it to me for a quid and I will keep it.

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