Midhurst fire update from South Downs National Park Authority (25 April)
South Downs National Park Authority commissions plans to shore up Midhurst buildings damaged by fire
The South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA), with the support of Chichester District Council and West Sussex County Council, has stepped in to break the deadlock in progress around getting the listed buildings safely and legally secured. While the South Downs National Park Authority are leading on this aspect of the recovery, they continue to work closely with the other members of the multi-agency recovery group and other agencies will continue to lead on other aspects of the recovery.
We understand that the top priority for the community and businesses is to get the road through Midhurst open again and the frustration that this has not yet happened. We want to assure everyone that there is a huge amount of work going on behind the scenes to secure the buildings to enable this to happen. The Angel Hotel and other buildings damaged are listed buildings and are protected by law. The solution to making the buildings safe and to secure them is for them to be shored up. The SDNPA, with the support of Chichester District Council and West Sussex County Council, has therefore stepped in to ensure this happens without further unnecessary delay.
We can report that we have appointed a structural engineer who is currently finalising a plan for shoring up the damaged buildings. This week we are liaising with and visiting on site with potential specialist contractors who could then carry out this very specialised work. Our aim is to appoint a contractor to begin work as soon as possible. Please be assured that progress is being made. Unfortunately, we cannot give a date on when work will commence until we have a contractor in place, but we will provide regular updates on this work as soon as it becomes available.
Once the buildings have been safely secured, West Sussex County Council, as the highways authority responsible for the road, will be able to reopen the road through Midhurst.
The multi-agency recovery group was quickly set up in response to the fire as this is a complex legal, financial and practical issue with multiple agencies holding legal responsibility for different aspects of the response and recovery. To help, the group has prepared which will be updated as new information becomes available.
As public sector bodies it is deeply regrettable that we have to step in and address what is a landowner responsibility. Such decisions are very rare for good reason and have to be carefully considered. While public money will be spent to shore up the building and therefore break the detrimental impasse, we will use all legal means to reclaim these costs. The priority now must be the shoring up of the buildings which will, in turn, enable the road to be opened to get Midhurst moving again.
Date of Release: Wednesday 25 April 2023