The Rotting Elephant in the Town Centre Room

The Rotting Elephant in the Town Centre Room, that nobody on NBC seems to want to notice, or talk about, or get anything done about, is the shell of St Edmund's Hospital, a listed building gradually falling into ruin on the Wellingborough Road.

I hear from plenty of customers from that area though, that the rats still roam the derelict site, and come out further afield into the residential areas nearby. The main hospital building has stood derelict since 1999. That such a fine old listed building is being allowed to fall into decay like this is a disgrace to Northampton.

Early last year, persons unknown - presumably on behalf of the current owners? - applied to English Heritage to remove it from listed status. But this attempt did not succeed, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has decreed that it should stay listed, which means it cannot be knocked down. This means it has to be renovated from inside, which is probably more costly and on-going than the owners would like. They no doubt feel it would be so much easier and cheaper to demolish it and then offer the site for redevelopment.

Only last year, Cllr Tim Hadland, NBC's cabinet member for Town Centre Regeneration, quite rightly said: “Owning a listed building comes with a duty to protect it, so we will continue to talk with the landowners about their plans and how they can bring the site back into use.”

Since then we haven't heard a thing, so talking didn't do much good. It seems obvious that the landowners bought up the site with a keen eye to demolish and redevelop, and make a nice profit, but instead have to contend with the expense of renovating a historic listed building, which they must have been aware of all along, but probably hoped to get it de-listed.

With the owners unwilling to spend, and the council unwilling or unable to put pressure on them to renovate the building, it will just continue to degenerate and fall into decay, becoming even more expensive to repair; until eventually after the passage of many years it will have to be demolished for safety reasons, if it hasn't fallen down by then. There should be a law which requires owners of listed buildings to either renovate them and then keep them in a state of good repair, or hand them over to the State for civic use.

The building could have many uses. One being its development as a hotel, renovated from the inside out, so that it still keeps its historic appearance, but is able to function usefully at the heart of the town centre. This would be well in keeping with current plans to regenerate the town centre, and would provide an excellent addition to hotel space within the town.

Another useful idea would be to convert it to flats, which could then be rented to students and others who found it better to live closer to work within the town. Like the hotel, there would soon be a worthwhile financial return on the investment.

Many local people may not know it, but St. Edmund's Hospital was first designed by a famous Victorian architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott, who went on to create both the Albert Memorial in London and the Midland Grand Hotel at St Pancras Station. That one of his eminent structures should have to bear the ignominy of falling into rack and ruin is a disgrace to the Borough of Northampton. It is high time NBC pressed hard for something positive to be done about it. With the General Election coming up next year, this would be a good issue to campaign for by local political candidates.

Afghanistan - What Was That All About?

The Afghan War has cost us Billions. More than £37 Billion Pounds, to be more precise. And for what?

Since 2006 it has cost the UK well over £15 Million Pounds Every Day to have our blokes over there and maintain a military presence. Over 450 of our troops have been killed, and well over 2,600 physically wounded, and who knows how many thousands mentally affected by what they have been through.

Afghanistan has no significant oil reserves, but it is inextricably locked into the world-wide trade in illegal heroin and its derivatives. But opium production, that actually went down drastically under the Taliban, has been increasing, fuelling corruption and filling the coffers of warlords, and bringing down the street price in the Western world to its lowest in many years. This has resulted in a rise in addiction at the street level, as might be expected, especially at a time of recession.

There is an interesting book concerning the UK's participation in the Afghan Wars, with a review here:

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