Preservation group concerned for former council site

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A VICTORIAN landmark building near Doncaster is among properties a pressure group fears could be at risk.

Bosses at the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings are concerned over the future of Conisbrough Priory, which is one of a number of former council buildings being sold off by local authorities to cope with budget cuts.

The society says that, while the Government is keen for local groups to take on heritage assets when they come on the market - which could be an improvement in areas where local bodies are not looking after properties well - in many places community groups which could take on large or awkward buildings do not exist.

The priory is one of a number of buildings nationally which have been raised as concerns by the group.

Secretary of the society Philip Venning said: “The situation could well become something of a gamble for hundreds of historic buildings.

“While there may be some positive outcomes, SPAB is deeply concerned that great swathes of the nation’s built heritage will face an uncertain future under new ownership - or will simply be mothballed.”

He warned that while councils have always sold off surplus historic properties, a steadily increasing number of such buildings is likely to hit the market as savage spending cuts mean their disposal becomes unavoidable.

Doncaster Council director of regeneration and environment, Peter Dale, said: “The Priory was sold at auction on February 15, 2011 as it was surplus to the council’s requirements and represented a cost liability to the council.”

The guide price for Conisbrough Priory was £275,000

The council says the purchaser will have to comply with the requirements of the listing. The priory was built in the mid-19th century.

Concerns have also been raised for the future of another of the council’s surplus buildings, Thorne Hall in Doncaster. Thorne ward Coun Martin Williams has been campaigning for the building to be sold because he is concerned it could fall into ruin if a use is not found for it. It is due to be auctioned.