Preston's Harris Museum: Victorian Society concerns call into question roof refurbishment work

The government will have the final say over whether an aspect of the renovation work planned for the Harris Museum can go ahead.

Friday, 29th April 2022, 8:59 pm
Updated Saturday, 30th April 2022, 1:08 am

It comes after the Victorian Society lodged an objection to a proposal to add lead capping to the decorative “cornices” on the roof of the Grade I-listed building.

Preston City Council’s planning committee has given the go-ahead to a raft of wider refurbishments to the exterior of the building, but the application was only able to be approved subject to whether the secretary of state for local government decides to call it in for further consideration as a result of the society's concerns.

Members gave the green light to work which will include repair or replacement of windows, redecoration and repair of doors and the cleaning and repointing of stonework.

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The Harris refurbishment will see its stonework cleaned up and roof protected

A report presented to the committee revealed that the Victorian Society - a London-based charity which fights to protect and preserve buildings from the Victorian and Edwardian eras - did not object “in principle” to the lead capping proposal, but believed that a lack of detail meant it was not possible to assess how the lead would be attached to the building, what level of harm would be caused by it and whether any such harm could be justified.

Planning case officer Jonathan Evans told members that capping was essential to “prevent water ingress and future water damage”.

He added: “These works would be reversible at a later date without causing damage to the building.

“It is considered that the [council] can be satisfied that the works are clearly needed, [their] impact is understood and that the benefit of the works would clearly outweigh any harm that would be caused.”

The Post understands that Buttress Architects, the agent for the application, has written to the Victorian Society to try to address its concerns.

Councillors were told that the organisation fully supports the proposed programme of stone cleaning, repair and replacement - as well as joinery repairs and flat roof covering - all of which

it considers to be “much needed and would help to ensure the building’s future”.

Jonathan Evans told the meeting that the process chosen for cleaning the stone was chemical-based, but designed to be “as gentle as possible to bring off the dirt, but obviously to ensure there is no, or minimal, harm to the stonework”.

Windows will be replaced only if they are found to be beyond repair once they have been closely inspected.

Members were advised that the overall suite of works would help sustain the 130-year-old city landmark and “provide a considerable public benefit” to Preston.

Just last week, the city council appointed the contractor for all of the construction work to be undertaken at the Harris during its current closure - of which the external repairs are a part.

The Post approached the Victorian Society for comment.