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:
After a few months of visits to Sandfield Tower to capture as many internal and external images of the building, I was able to construct a basic floorplan of the ground floor from my numerous visits to the property. At the time, I was concerned that the building was in its last days and that it would be demolished soon. Little did I realise that I would be personally connected to this building for another twenty-four years of campaigning, countless e-mail’s to various councillors, Mayor’s of Liverpool, Save Britain’s Heritage, Historic England and anyone who would listen to me.
I was delighted, however, to understand that the building was listed by English Heritage on the 1st of August 1973 and was given a Grade II listing. This meant that the building couldn’t just be demolished on a whim and that it stood a fighting chance of survival.
I wrote off to the local councillors who replied with some basic information on the building but couldn’t really help me apart from providing snippets of information. I then wrote off to Liverpool City Council for advice. At the start of this process and say within the next 10 years, the City Council entertained my enthusiasm for this building and they themselves had plans to compulsory purchase the property.
I produced a very basic website on a quickly cobbled together campaign and wrote off to the Liverpool Echo. They decided to feature the building on more than one occasion.
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 proceeded with a prosecution of the alleged offence and a court hearing was due in October 2013.
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 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.
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.
In 2015, the Liverpool Echo produced a good write up on the current state of Sandfield Tower. They included the latest information and provided some good images from my campaign as well as my website. The feedback given was fantastic. People who wanted to know about the building had finally been able to read about the history and the background to my campaign.
The link to the article can be found here:
In 2016, Historian Stephen Guy contacted the Echo for an update. It was stated that the City Council had prosecuted the owner three times in recent years in an attempt to get further essential repairs carried out at the building, and that we would be seeking a compulsory purchase order as a last resort so that the building doesn’t deteriorate further.
The link to the article can be found here:
In 2020, The Liverpool Echo ran another story on the plight of Sandfield Tower. It was an excellent write up by Alan Weston who contacted me for an update and asked if they could use my exterior and interior images to show the present condition of the building. The council stated in the article that, “it was not their responsibility as they are not the owners of the building.” The saga continues.
The link to the article can be found here:
In 2021, the Liverpool Echo ran another fantastic article written again by Alan Weston. It showed the colourised images from the exterior and interior of when it was a working Church back in 1931 and I was delighted to see these images be brought to the wider public to show what the building was like in it’s prime. It highlighted exactly what is there for the taking and how the grand building could be restored and brought back in to use. Within its own grounds, it would make a stunning private boutique hotel!
The link to the article can be found here:
With no one wanting to take responsibility for the decline of the building, it came to a point where the roof collapsed in on itself. It took out the entire internal structure at the front of the building and all of the room structure and original floors. It was a huge loss to the structure of the building and the front of the building is now just an open void.
So I turned my attention to the new Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson. With the departure of Joe Anderson and yet before Covid, I sent over an e-mail and CC’d in the Knotty Ash councillors to brief her of the campaign and asked her to look into it for me. No response. I therefore asked the Knotty Ash Councillors to speak to her about this directly. Harry Doyle responded that he would personally highlight the campaign to her. Nothing happened.
Over the course of her two year tenure, I e-mailed her SIX times and didn’t receive a single response. She wasn’t interested, nor were the Knotty Ash councillors who decided to ignore any further e-mail’s from me on polite requests for updates and whether the owner (who was known to the City Council) had been served any further Urgent Works Notices. Nothing.
I therefore turned my attention to Save Britain’s Heritage and Historic England. Historic England could not have been more helpful. They explained the process on abandoned listed buildings and told me that the power is with the City Council as only they could serve Urgent Works Notices. Save Britain’s Heritage featured Sandfield Tower as the building of the month in September 2021 on the front page of their website.
So I wrote off to the City Council again advising them of the case and asked for an update. Their response on the building was, and I couldn’t believe their response. They said that ‘a representative had gone past the building and made sure that the perimeter gate was secure’. And that was it.
I then turned my attention to the Secretary of State, and I e-mailed the Rt Hon Greg Clarke MP with the full campaign asking to see if he could step in at any stage and advise further. Guess what, no response (an automated reply so I know the e-mail got through).
When Joanne Anderson left her position, I thought we would see some change at the top and in came Liam Robinson. Leader of the City Council. I e-mailed him on the 22nd of August 2023 and CC’d in Emma Linney who works in Planning Enforcement for the City Council. No response. I e-mailed again a month later to see if there was an update, No response.
So there you have it. The City Council (Joanne Anderson, Liam Robinson, Emma Linney) have failed to respond to a single e-mail asking for further information. The request is fairly simple and is to ask whether they are still serving Urgent Works Notices to the owner or whether this building will continue to stand there on the main throughfare of Queens Drive falling apart. Local residents are absolutely fed up with children accessing the site and are fed up of the rats running around their gardens in the overgrowth. The Sandfield Tower Nursery which sits on the plot next door are also frustrated. How does one keep a very clean and safe Nursery knowing over their party fence is a rotten building full of overgrowth and rats running around daily with only a fence keeping it all apart? I feel very sorry for their business.
In a last-ditch effort, after seeing ‘new’ interior photos appear on the internet, the back wall is currently being held up by a single rotten beam. I sent these images across to the City Council advising them that if this beam goes, it will take out the entire back wall and fall on the garden behind. Guess what, no response.
Let me make this as clear as possible. I don’t expect the City Council to come in and finance the buildings restoration, it is clear that their finances are an absolute mess having had the commissioners in, but there needs to be a clear understanding for the building’s future. Are they still serving Urgent Works Notices to the owner? If not, why not? Are they waiting for the building to fall down? Why is it that this building has rotted away for 40 years without a single jot of work being done on the property?
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 landowner, who is local the area, and yet promises by the landowner 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 24 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 into 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