We regret to inform that upon viewing the exterior of Sandfield Tower in June 2019, the main roof has now collapsed inwards into the property.
22 years ago, I personally highlighted that this building was at risk to Liverpool City Council. Each year I have e-mailed the City Council for an update. I have also e-mailed English Heritage, Save Britain’s Heritage (each year) and attempted to understand exactly where this building features under Liverpool City Council's remit. It was heavily featured in the Liverpool Echo Stop the Rot Campaign. It is therefore frustrating that I must report the following: Back in 2013, I e-mailed The Mayor of Liverpool again and received the encouraging reply:
“Many thanks for your recent enquiry concerning Gwalia, Queen’s Drive, West Derby and thank you for taking the time to contact me about this issue. The City Council is very much aware of the poor condition of this grade II listed building and is actively taking steps to remedy the situation. In April 2012, a Section 215 Notice was served upon the owner requiring the external refurbishment of Gwalia. The notice was not complied with and an alleged offence was committed in November 2012. The City Council is now proceeding with a prosecution of the alleged offence and a court hearing is due in October 2013.
In conjunction with the above enforcement action, Planning Committee took the decision to delegate authority to the Divisional Manager Planning in July 2013, to serve a Repairs Notice on the owner requiring him to commence full repairs of the property within 2 months. Failure to commence full repairs could lead to a compulsory purchase order being made in respect to the property to ensure that it is fully refurbished for re-use. At this stage the Repairs Notice has not been served, pending the outcome of the forthcoming trial.
In conjunction with the above enforcement action, Planning Committee took the decision to delegate authority to the Divisional Manager Planning in July 2013, to serve a Repairs Notice on the owner requiring him to commence full repairs of the property within 2 months. Failure to commence full repairs could lead to a compulsory purchase order being made in respect to the property to ensure that it is fully refurbished for re-use. At this stage the Repairs Notice has not been served, pending the outcome of the forthcoming trial. A back to back developer is currently being sought to take on responsibility for ownership and appropriate redevelopment of the site, involving the full restoration of the grade II listed building. I hope to be able to provide further positive news regarding Gwalia’s future over the coming months.”
A further e-mail was sent to the Mayor of Liverpool on the 24th Feb 2015 and I also received the encouraging response: “Further to my previous response, I can confirm that the City Council has recently offered to buy the property from the present owner and are awaiting a response. The Council is now considering making a Compulsory Purchase Order of the land in the event that the offer is rejected to ensure that the grade II listed building is saved from being lost. Working with a preferred developer, the Council hopes to secure the full repair of the property and beneficial use before further deterioration sets in.”
However, a further e-mail to the Mayor of Liverpool resulted in the following reply:
I can inform you that there was a resolution by Planning Committee on 26.01.16 to serve a repairs notice and make a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) to acquire the building. Negotiations are ongoing with a developer to secure funding for the making of the CPO and carrying out of works to save the building. It is anticipated that these will be concluded by April 2018 and the CPO process will commence immediately thereafter.
So – encouraging once again. April 2018.
However, a further e-mail to the Liverpool City Council in May of this year to the “Townscape Heritage Initiative Manager”, a reply was given:
“Thank you for your continued interest in this property. I am not sure why April 2018 was quoted as a conclusion date, such cases are complex and unpredictable particularly when dealing with an uncooperative owner.”
So it looks like the Mayor’s dates were either completely wrong, or they’re unsure on how long a CPO takes. (Maybe they should ask Elizabeth Pascoe of the Edge Lane Project when they CPO’d her property in under 5 years as well as half of Edge Hill before demolishing the Victorian Houses on Edge Lane).
Since this update, I have again E-mailed: English Heritage, Save Britain’s Heritage, 6 councillors from both the West Derby and Knotty Ash Ward, the Mayor and Peter Hoey to advise them of the latest calamity of the roof now caving in. I have also asked them why a well-known demolition company were seen using ladders to get into the boundary of the property, and asked them if they knew about this, and if so why, and if not, will trespass be served on this company? They were seen to go in at the same time the roof has collapsed, I hope they managed to vacate the boundary in time.
Given the fact that we have been under lockdown for the last few months, the world, not just Sandfield Tower has been at a standstill. However it is NOW time for action on this property.
In July 2020, I e-mailed the Townscape Heritage Initiative Manager at Liverpool City Council and asked what the proposal was with the building. I received the following reply and provide details from the November 2019 Digest:
In Octobers Digest it was explained that enforcement action had been authorised and outlined how officers intended to secure repairs to Gwalia. However, in the last month the wider financial position of the council has meant that the timetable will need to be revised.
Progress In the Last Month.
On the morning of 18th October, Invitations were sent out to three specialist building engineers asking them submit a price to survey the building and prepare a schedule of repairs that can be used to support a Listed Building Repairs Notice. All three engineers have indicated that they will be submitting a price.
Invitations and supporting packages were also prepared,, but not sent,, asking valuers to provide a price for estimating a realistic market price, should the case ultimately be subject to compulsory purchase.
Later, on the same day, with immediate effect, the council put a spending freeze in place to address this year's overspend.
The council needs to make significant savings in order to reduce the in year overspend and look to reduce next year’s savings target. As a result, the council took the decision to implement a 'Spend Freeze' which means that council money may only be spent if it falls within one of three Essential Spend categories, regardless of whether or not there is a budget in place to cover the expenditure.
The Essential Spend categories are:
· Service Failure
· Legal Requirement
· Contractual Obligation
The proposed enforcement action at Gwalia does not fall into an essential spend category.
What to Do Next
It is not possible in the immediate future to appoint the engineers or valuers However, on the assumption that when the spend freeze is lifted the authority will still want to serve a repairs notice on the owner of Gwalia, the invitations to the building engineers to tender have not been withdrawn. The deadline for their responses is 18th November.
It is proposed to assess the tender prices in the normal way and to inform the successful engineers of the delay in appointing because of the spending freeze. When the spending freeze is lifted, the successful tender will be asked if they are willing to match their original price. If not their revised score would need to be compared with the second placed tenderer.
In July 2020 I e-mailed my contact at the City Council stating that lockdown may have held things down for Sandfield Tower and asked whether new dates had been selected to move the CPO process on. Their reply:
Thank you for your email enquiring about progress at Sandfield Tower. I am awaiting an update on the Councils financial situation.
The Council had already implemented a spending freeze in the financial year before Covid. Since then, the Council has spent £60m on measures to counter Covid but has only received £6.5m from the government's latest coronavirus funding settlement
The Echo has reported that the Council only has 16m left in reserves.
When I receive more information, I will contact you.
And there we have it - we are no further on with Sandfield Tower than we were 20 years ago. I find this incredible that the City Council have previously met with the land owner, who is local the area, and yet promises by the land owner on securing the building have fallen on deaf ears. The Council have previously taken the owner to court on 3 separate occasions, resulting in a large fine by a Magistrates Court. When I asked the City Council if this was ever paid, they stated that they have no interest in understanding whether this has been paid. If the Council are prepared to spend their own capital on the building then surely it is in their best interests to recoup money from the owner.
I therefore ask THE OWNER:
You have seen my campaign to save Sandfield Tower for the last 20 years. You have owned the property for at least this amount of time. What is your goal? Are you waiting for the building to fall down so it has to be demolished and therefore be able to sell the land? If so, the facade of Sandfield Tower will not fall down. It may soon become a shell but unless mechanical forces are at work with the building, the facade won't collapse in on itself. I have seen the structure up close, seen the way the building was built in layers (internal brickwork/sandstone faced). This is a much loved and much seen building on Queens Drive and this lets the area down greatly. It is not hidden from view in a back road so you must understand that people see this building daily. Why not contact me and put the record straight? Be honest to the people of Liverpool and either state that you have no desire to restore this building and then let other people take control, go in to the property, secure the building from further collapse and tidy the grounds around the building? If you want to provide me with tools and a skip, I would be happy to tend the garden area myself!
This campaign won't go away. The public understand who owns the property. Maybe it is now time for you to come forward and tell the residents of West Derby and the City of Liverpool whether you are planning to let this building deteriorate further, or whether we can see this fine property restored to its former glory?
THE HISTORY OF SANDFIELD TOWER