PRESS RELEASE: SAVE raises alarm over new demolition threat – two years after saving listed station
3rd March 2023
SAVE commissions specialist engineer to assess threatened historic railway station
SAVE Britain’s Heritage is extremely concerned to hear of plans to partially demolish a historic listed railway station in Suffolk – two years after we helped avert its total destruction.
We have commissioned Ed Morton, one of Britain’s leading historic building structural engineers, to visit Brandon Station as a matter of urgency to assess its condition, and we have raised our concerns directly with train operator Greater Anglia.
Greater Anglia, which owns the attractive Victorian station, suddenly closed the building and one platform, saying its condition had deteriorated and that it posed a risk to the public.
The building report commissioned by Greater Anglia – which explicitly states it does not address heritage issues – recommends demolishing the vast majority of the roof in order to stabilise the building. As a result Greater Anglia plans to appoint contractors to demolish the roof (apart from the station master’s house) within days, including the chimneys and parapet walls.
As a result of SAVE’s intervention, Mr Morton will conduct an inspection on Monday morning (March 6) to determine whether such drastic works are necessary, or whether a less destructive solution is possible.
This development comes just a fortnight after Greater Anglia confirmed to SAVE that a much delayed programme of works to put a protective roof covering over the station and to actually fix the roof structure was about to commence.
We understand the council has also raised concerns with Greater Anglia about their plans.
Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “We are extremely concerned that Brandon Station is yet again under imminent threat. We urge Greater Anglia to consider all the options available to them to make safe this historic building in their care. Partial demolition must be the last not the first resort for this hugely loved landmark. The focus should be on fixing the roof, not demolishing it and that’s why we’ve asked Ed Morton, a highly experienced historic building engineer, to assess its condition and options for stabilisation.”
Piers Hart, chairman of Suffolk Building Preservation Trust, said: “We conducted a structural survey of the building in June last year and no dangerous defects were found at the time. We are surprised to find at this stage that Greater Anglia have discovered the building to be in such a perilous state, especially as they had undertaken to put a protective covering over the building and also to repair the roof itself – with work meant to start in the autumn last year.
“What we’d like to see is the building made safe and to find a sustainable re-use. When we surveyed passengers at the station in 2022 the vast majority said they wanted the building re-opened as somewhere to shelter (not the bus shelter structures currently on the platform), use the toilet, and buy a coffee. This to us sounds like an ideal starting point.”
The new threat to Brandon Station comes after we helped avert its destruction two years ago.
In May 2020, SAVE won a High Court case to stop Greater Anglia’s plans to demolish the building, after it had been approved by the local council despite a 14-year campaign by local people to protect the much-loved building.
At the same time we supported a successful application by Suffolk Building Preservation Trust to have the building listed at grade II.
The little 1845 station, constructed with knapped flint, is believed to have been designed by one of the greatest sculptors of the age, John Thomas. Thomas rose from the humblest beginnings to win patronage from the Prince Consort, and went on to design Peto’s imposing country house at Somerleyton in Suffolk and the estate village where the cottages have a family resemblance to Brandon Station.
Brandon also featured in a 1968 episode of the popular British comedy Dad's Army, and remains a tourist attraction for location tours run by the nearby Dads Army Museum in Thetford.
Brandon served as the terminus station connecting two of Norfolk’s most historic railway lines: the Norfolk Railway (formerly the Norwich & Brandon) and the Eastern Counties Railway.
While Brandon flint was used both for the station and much of the town itself, during the Second World War, and the town became the leading supplier of military gunflint for the British Army. The station also served as the main station for the American Airforce at nearby RAF Lakenheath and AAF Mildenhall, with large sidings put in known as the American Sidings.
Although the station is still a well used stop on the main line from Cambridge and Norwich, the station offices were closed in 1978 and up until September 2004 were leased to a building company. They are now empty and boarded up.
Notes to editors:
1. For more information contact Ben Oakley, conservation officer at SAVE Britain's Heritage – firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 7253 3500
2. Read about the successful campaign to have the station listed in 2020 and more on the building's fascinating history in our press release HERE
3. Read Historic England's listing description HERE
4. SAVE Britain’s Heritage is an independent voice in conservation that fights for threatened historic buildings and sustainable reuses. We stand apart from other organisations by bringing together architects, engineers, planners and investors to offer viable alternative proposals. Where necessary, and with expert advice, we take legal action to prevent major and needless losses