Fears for listed landmarks as Nadine Dorries lets the wrecking ball swing

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Nadine Dorries’s decision to change the status of the Dorman Long Tower, right, has paved the way for the landmark to be destroyed - Getty Images/PA
Nadine Dorries’s decision to change the status of the Dorman Long Tower, right, has paved the way for the landmark to be destroyed - Getty Images/PA

Nadine Dorries, the new Culture Secretary, has stripped an industrial landmark of protected status, paving the way for a major redevelopment.

The Dorman Long Tower in Redcar, North Yorks, was granted Grade II listed status following a local campaign to spare the 1950’s landmark from being demolished to make way for a new business park.

But the newly appointed Culture Secretary has revoked the former coal store’s protected status after just days in the job following a Cabinet reshuffle, and only one week after the building was listed.

The change in status has paved the way for the landmark to be destroyed.

A letter from the Secretary of State to Historic England, responsible for granting listed status, said: “Its historic interest is primarily local in nature.”

The letter stated that the structure has “some degree of aesthetic interest” but added that “most buildings are in some way unique, which does not necessarily of itself make them of special interest”.

There are concerns among heritage experts that a policy of paving the way for redevelopment could lead to the review of other buildings saved from demolition by being listed.

The art deco Abbey Cinema in Liverpool, a favoured haunt of The Beatles, was saved from demolition after being listed in April in a decision which frustrated plans for a Lidl supermarket expansion on the site.

Similarly, the listing of Altrincham Linotype Works – a Victorian engine house – in July spared it from demolition and thwarted a planned housing development.

These were given protected status by Historic England, which on Sept 10 listed the Dorman Long tower due to the structure being a “celebrated example of early Brutalist architecture” and a “nationally unique” building.

While it has not been used since the 1970’s, Teesside-born heritage adviser and historian Dr Tosh Warick said the building erected in 1955 “holds an allure for fans of the beauty on concrete”.

He added on the Culture Secretary’s delisting of the building: “It’s going to happen again, especially when there’s money involved and developments involved. We are more than likely to see very similar scenarios in the very near future.

“What this does suggest to me is that people wrongly assume that your bundling is safe and secure for future generations.”

The initial emergency decision to list the tower came on the same day Redcar and Cleveland Council approved its demolition, citing “ongoing and irreversible” damage, and annual maintenance costs in the millions.

After a week-long reprieve, this decision is now set to go ahead following the revocation of protected status, with the tower due to be knocked down within days.

Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, and Suella Braverman, the Attorney General, on Friday during the first Cabinet meeting since the reshuffle - Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard
Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, and Suella Braverman, the Attorney General, on Friday during the first Cabinet meeting since the reshuffle - Jeremy Selwyn/Evening Standard

The move followed a push from Ben Houchen, the Teesside Combined Authority’s Conservative mayor, to clear the way for the development of a business and industrial park which is hoped could support 20,000 jobs as part of a £400 million project.

The application for demolition was lodged by South Tees Development Corporation, chaired by Mr Houchen, who said: “I would like to send a message to those that think trying to stop these developments is the right thing to do – our heritage does not lie in a rotting coal bunker, our heritage lies in the people that built this great region.”

Coal was stored in the building and fed into the coke ovens which fuelled the blast furnace in order to make steel for Dorman Long, the company which helped build the Sydney Harbour and Tyne bridge.

Dr Warwick said: “It’s a large concrete monument, the largest possibly monument for Dorman Long, and it’s synonymous with the history and heritage of Teesside. It’s not spectacular, but it’s something that forms part of a broader story.”

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