Midhurst Fire Updates
- Plea for calm after attack at Midhurst fire site – 7 June 2023
- Scaffolding work well underway at fire-damaged buildings in Midhurst – 2 June 2023
- Work underway to shore-up fire-damaged buildings in Midhurst – 18 May 2023
- Work to begin Monday on fire-damaged buildings in Midhurst – 11 May 2023
- Urgent works notice issued to owners of fire-hit properties in Midhurst – 5 May 2023
- South Downs National Park Authority commissions plans to shore up Midhurst buildings damaged by fire – 25 April 2023
- South Downs Centre and Midhurst businesses open as usual following fire – 29 March 2023
- Why has it taken all this time to get some action to shore up the building?
It is the owners’ responsibility to shore up and preserve the listed buildings. They had to be given the time and opportunity to do this. As soon as it became apparent that a viable solution in a reasonable timeframe was not possible through this means, the South Downs National Park Authority, supported by Chichester District Council and West Sussex County Council, immediately took action to step in and use its statutory powers to safely shore up the listed buildings and address the dangerous chimneys. This will then enable the road to be reopened in both directions.
- How long will the shoring up work take?
We estimate that this complex and specialist work will take seven weeks, after which the highways authority, West Sussex County Council, will be able to open the road to vehicles.
- Why are you shoring up the building and not just demolishing it?
As the buildings are listed and are of historical importance, it would be illegal for anyone to pull them down without Listed Building Consent. All of the Structural Engineers involved in assessing the buildings agree with Historic England that it should be possible to save some parts of the buildings.
- Why will the shoring up work take seven weeks?
This is complex and specialised work on dangerous buildings. A tender was sent out to a number of different contractors who all responded with a proposed programme of work. These ranged between 7 and 20 weeks. The specialist contractor chosen will take 7 weeks.
- Why is this the fastest way to get the road open to vehicles?
The multi-agency group has looked at all options to safely and legally secure the listed building, in order to enable the road to be reopened to vehicles. Demolition would require listed building consent. Both this and the delisting of a listed building are formal processes with a number of different stages and take significant amounts of time, well in excess of the seven weeks that shoring up will take.
- What does the shoring up work involve?
This is a complex project with significant health and safety considerations. The specialist contractors have to design and install support to the facades of both listed buildings to prevent their collapse. They now have access to the buildings to do so. Support scaffolding has also to be installed to the flank wall of the Angel Inn adjacent to Angel Yard to prevent the collapse of this wall and to allow vehicular access into Angel Yard once again for the residents. A number of chimneys at the Angel Inn also have to be demolished (or removed down to a safe height) as they are currently at risk of uncontrolled collapse.
- Who’s paying for the shoring up of the buildings?
In a move to speed up the shoring up of the buildings which will, in turn, enable the road to be opened, the South Downs National Park Authority, Chichester District Council and West Sussex County Council have agreed to jointly fund the work to shore up the buildings.
Whilst public money will be spent to shore up the buildings, we will use legal means to recover these costs from the owners.
- How often does the SDNPA use these statutory planning powers to shore up a listed building?
The SDNPA has issued Urgent Works Notices for the works that are urgently necessary to preserve the listed buildings. It is very rare to use these statutory planning powers as the legal requirement to preserve listed buildings sits with the owners. In this case we have stepped in given the lack of progress in shoring up the listed building which is also preventing the road from being opened and causing real distress to the local community and businesses.
- Can the emergency services get through if the crane is in position?
Yes. The crane has been positioned to one side of the carriageway to enable access for emergency services even while the crane is up. The emergency services have met with contractors and agreed to this approach.
- Now that scaffolding is up on the side wall, can local residents access the rear of the Angel Inn by vehicle?
The scaffolding on the side of the Angel Inn will facilitate future vehicle access to the rear of the building. While work is continuing, contractors may use this area to park their vehicles. However, at present we cannot open this up for the residents to use because it is still within the site compound and the chimneys need to be made safe. Once the emergency works are completed and signed off this will be opened with the main road on the agreement of WSCC highways team.
- Once the buildings are shored up and the road is re-opened, then what happens?
The owners will need to consider how they wish to use and develop their buildings into the future. It is likely that there will be redevelopment behind the facades and this will require planning permission. Given insurance timescales any planning applications may be some time off.
Please note the SDNPA is dealing specifically with the shoring up of the buildings and the relevant planning issues. Chichester District Council has created a full FAQs on the wider issues, and this can be found on Chichester District Council’s website.