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lets rebuilt broomfield houseAt its meeting on 18th October, Councillor Dinah Barry updated Enfield Council's Cabinet on the situation regarding the future of Broomfield House. Below we reproduce the relevant section of the draft minutes of the Cabinet meeting, along with a commentary by Colin Younger, Chair of the Broomfield House Trust.

Excerpt from draft minutes of Cabinet meeting on 18 October 2017

BROOMFIELD HOUSE

Councillor Dinah Barry (Associate Cabinet Member - Enfield West) gave a verbal update to Members regarding Broomfield House. An information sheet was tabled at the meeting for Members to note, as summarised below.

NOTED

1. The background to the current situation, and the status of Broomfield House and its stable block which were both included within Historic England's Heritage at Risk Register. An integrated strategy was needed for the House and Stables.

2. Members were updated on the progress of the Project Board, which had been established in October 2014. A significant amount of work had been undertaken. These outputs included studies on heritage significance, structural feasibility, use options, costs and soft market testing.

3. Structural surveys of the building remains had shown that only 20-30% of the remains could be restored as it stands. The remaining 70% of the structure was unviable for the use for which it was intended. Any reconstruction of the House would therefore to a large extent be a replica rather than a restoration. All options would be examined. The existing covenant which restricted trade or business raised the risks around the provision of any future income generating use. The Heritage Lottery Fund feedback was that they still had issues around the funding gap and how the proposed end-uses would meet their requirement for very secure long term income generation and sustainable business viability.

4. In the coming months officers would undertake the further work which was required by Historic England, in accordance with government guidance (the National Planning Policy Guidance), on further testing of options. It was not possible to consult local people on the future of Broomfield House until a limited range of options or a preferred scheme had been identified. This could only be evolved by fully testing viability through the market. Officers would undertake a marketing procedure to seek expressions of interest from a commercial partner (a process which would take 9-12 months).

5. Officers would continue to work with the community on the alternative options and continue to liaise with the Heritage Lottery Fund.

6. That a report would be brought to a future Cabinet meeting for a decision on the way ahead. The Council would continue to work with the community to deliver a timely resolution.

7. In response to a question raised by Councillor Anderson, Councillor Barry outlined in more detail the results of the structural surveys. Whilst the majority of the brickwork could be retained and repaired, the majority of the building was of timber framed construction that was not capable of repair and retention. A drone survey had recently been carried out and the resulting video footage would be placed on the Council's website. This would aid understanding of the building construction and the limited fabric which remained. It was noted that no more than 20-30% of the historic fabric of the building remained.

Source:  https://governance.enfield.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=107&MId=10107&Ver=4

Commentary by Colin Younger, Chair of the Broomfield House Trust

The Trust’s position is as set out in our registered objectives; in short to restore, preserve and protect Broomfield House and stableyard for public benefit. Essentially this matches the mission statement for the Broomfield House Partnership Board which Councillor Barry now chairs.

Unfortunately there is a tendency to focus on the problems facing Broomfield House, and to forget the potentially positive aspects. To begin with, as shown by structural engineers’ reports in 2014 and 2017, and the Conservation Management Plan produced in 2016, there has been no recent significant deterioration to the structure. Notwithstanding the drone survey, the extent of the standing structure is no less than it has been for many years. Also the risks to trespassers (who would have to breach high hoarding and ignore clear warning notices to access the site), is no different to what it has been for many years.

The report makes no mention of the significant elements of Broomfield House (the murals and the main staircase) in store and capable of restoration and re-instatement in a rebuilt structure. Where features are incomplete, there is often enough original material to allow replicas to be made where this is necessary to the historical context. However, in line with many reconstructions of listed buildings, it has always been accepted that any reconstruction would as far as possible use modern materials and methods. In addition to cost reduction this would allow modern services and catering facilities to be installed. Commercial use such as a café/restaurant, or artist’s work spaces, would be part of our vision and an essential element in raising finance, but the balance of advantage needs careful thought.

The importance of Broomfield House for the park and the potential benefits of a rebuilt House for the park and the community have been set out in many studies. Palmers Green is a neglected area as regards the provision of community facilities; we have always promoted Broomfield House and stableyard as a place where the changing community could come together. New build accommodation along the North Circular corridor has not been matched by community facilities. The public’s general attitude shown in the Council--commissioned opinion survey by the PPS Group in November 2015 showed clear support for community hub/heritage, arts and cultural purposes. Our experience at our stall during Palmers Green Festival in September didn’t suggest things had changed. Perhaps one might hope that Councillors would have this in mind as next year’s elections approach.

So far as we know there are a number of options for dealing with the restrictive covenants. We have not previously understood this to be an insuperable issue, particularly if the Council were to approach this with a positive problem-solving attitude.

It is the Trust’s feeling that the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) could have been more helpful in finding creative ways around funding problems – which are very real. We have not been given any clear reporting of their current views, but have asked for a meeting with them to be arranged. There are a number of ways in which this key listed building could be saved, including through partial or staged restoration and reconstruction. If negative attitudes could be reined in, an approach to market might throw up some fresh ideas, so we support this proposal.

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