Two questions you will constantly be asked are: What can be done with the old wreck? And What will it cost and won't it be a waste of taxpayers' money?
It is not essential to be able to answer these questions immediately. In your initial blast, concentrate on the building's importance and interest, and the immediacy of the threat.
The immediate counter attack is simple: Has the building been offered for sale on the open market?
Michael Heseltine, when Secretary of state for the Environment, introduces a simple test, which is now permanently enshrined in the planning guidance note for the historic environment: permission will not normally be granted for the demolition of a listed building unless the unrestricted freehold is offered on the open market, and crucially, at a realistic price reflecting the building's current condition?
In SAVE's experience, most listed buildings under imminent threat have not been offered for sale. And if they have been on the market the terms have been unreasonable, with little attempt made to market them.
Getting professional advice
Very often the developers will produce figures showing that the building would be impossibly expensive to restore. In addition, there may be statements from engineers or surveyors suggesting that the buildings is physically unsound.
These must be challenged or rebutted. Today there are very few old buildings so structurally unsound that they cannot be saved. Many so called 'expert reports' simply provide the answers sought by those who commissioned them.
You must therefore find an architect, engineer or surveyor who has experience of old buildings and can provide an alternative, independent view. In many cases, the national societies can suggest local professionals who will be willing to help, sometimes on a voluntary basis.
Raising a fighting fund
Try to establish a basic float by persuading friends and well-wishers to contribute a few pounds: £20, £30 or £50 should be sufficient. SAVE itself was started with little more than £300, with initial committee members each putting in £10.
Try to obtain free services wherever possible. The cost of photocopying can mount up if you have to go to a local shop and pay several pence a sheet, whereas there are very likely to be local supporters who have photocopiers who are willing to run off a hundred copies at no charge.
This does not need to be smart or expensive - its amazing what a PC can do these days. Make it as attention-grabbing as possible. Good, snappy headlines and bold lettering help.
Obtain the best photographs you can. Most photocopiers can produce reasonably good images from photographs, including colour snaps. Perhaps the local paper will take photographs for a story and make copies available to you afterwards.
The more public support you can demonstrate, the stronger your case will be. Where there is a real emergency, the best tactic is to go straight out on to the street and recruit signatures. This raises public awareness and the press is always interested in hard statistics; so if you can say several hundred people signed the petition in an afternoon or over the course of a few days it will undoubtedly earn you publicity.
Of course there will always be some people who say, 'People will sign anything', and deride your efforts. Point out that this is an extremely undemocratic and elitist attitude, particularly if it comes from public figures.
Another method is to send out a letter or leaflet with a petition form to several hundred people, inviting them to recruit signatures. They can then absorb the literature in their own time and make up their own minds. If they then go out and collect signatures no-one can say that the petition has been organised by a small group who have twisted arms on the street.
Perhaps the most effective way to petition however is to send out a letter of objection to as many people as possible. All they have to do is sign it and send it on to whoever you are petitioning. Even though less people may respond this is highly effective because it can result in dozens if not hundreds of letters of objection. This technique is employed by organisations like Amnesty International.
The petition can have a simple heading such as, 'Save the Congleton Arms!', or if you prefer it can be addressed to, say, the chairman of the local planning committee or the leader of the council and be slightly fuller in wording. You must none the less be sure to avoid contentious or complicated wording, which might deter people, and choose a clear simple message, such as 'The Congleton Arms is a building of historic interest and deserves to be preserved as part of the town's heritage.'
If you are circulating a petition, be sure to put the address to which it should be returned.
SAVE and Urban Space Management's viable business scheme for Smithfield General Market and our letter making an offer on the site.
MINISTER SHOULD FOLLOW LEAD OF HER PREDECESSOR IN COVENT GARDEN AND LIST THE LONDON FRUIT AND WOOL EXCHANGE