This is the text of a press release issued by the Friends on 13 December 2009:
FRIENDS ASK ENGLISH HERITAGE TO ACT
At their Annual General Meeting on 6 December the Friends of Gunnersbury Park & Museum resolved to ask English Heritage, on behalf of the Secretary of State, to serve as soon as possible a full Repairs Notice on the East Stable Block and an Urgent Works notice for the repair of five more buildings at Gunnersbury. This would ensure repairs were carried out, if necessary under English Heritage’s auspices, and LB Ealing and Hounslow, the local authorities which own the buildings, would then be charged for the costs involved.
English Heritage has used the East Stable Block (listed Grade II*) in recent years as a photographic backdrop for the launch of its Heritage at Risk Register. This building, along with a number of other buildings at Gunnersbury, is recorded as Priority A in the Register. The others are the West Stable block, the Archway near the East Lodge, the East Lodge itself, the Gothic Boat-house and the Gothic Ruins. These buildings, along with the listed historic landscape, are one of the most neglected groups in the entire country.
The Friends have also drawn to the attention of English Heritage’s Chief Executive, Dr Simon Thurley, the condition of the two Mansions in the Park which are rapidly decaying.
The Friends are calling for this action because it is clear – both from long-term evidence and from actions in recent weeks – that the joint management of this estate between Ealing and Hounslow has completely failed. The Councils are unable to act together to meet the challenges which Gunnersbury faces, nor even to discharge their statutory obligations to protect the heritage. It is therefore time for English Heritage to act.
The Historic Buildings Division of the GLC (EH’s predecessor) threatened to enforce repairs to the East Lodge in the 1970s but its bluff was called by the two councils and that building is now a complete ruin. Since the Friends were formed in 1981 they have gathered ideas, commissioned studies and assisted with grant applications to support the Park and Museum. Almost all have been unsuccessful in achieving improvements because of the weakness of the joint management and the continued reduction in budgets. Under the current arrangements, neither councillors nor council officers have the capacity to develop or oversee a restoration programme.
The Joint Gunnersbury Park Regeneration Board has been demoted to an Advisory Board without decision-making powers. The future of the estate depends on occasional, ad hoc meetings between the Lead Councillors for both boroughs.
The powers to serve a full Repairs Notice and an Urgent Works notice are derived from the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, Planning Policy Guidance 15 and 5.
In London, English Heritage acts on behalf of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.