Victorian barn collapse in Byron preventable: Heritage advocates
LONDON, ONT. -- Neighbours of a downed heritage-listed barn are fuming after their warnings about the building's condition went unheeded.
On Tuesday evening, the roof beams of a 130-year-old barn at 247 Halls Mill Road in London's Byron neighbourhood collapsed.
Heritage advocated began sounding the alarm at city hall in September, after the owner removed approximately half of the roofing material without a valid demolition permit according to neighbour Debbie Park, “I was angry actually, I was very disappointed and angry.”
Park adds that 32 neighbours have raced to have the barn fully designated as a heritage building, but city hall’s processes moved too slowly.
“I thought they would have been really interested in what was going on, but there seemed to be a big lag and this is what ended up happening.”
Kathy Jones, who heard the barn collapse at about 7:45 p.m. on Tuesday evening, says it's “Disheartening to us, because we have been taking steps to get this property designated and protected with a heritage status."
The barn was cited in a recent city hall report as one of the historic assets which might one day justify declaring the Hall's Mill neighbourhood a Heritage Conservation District.
According to the report, it was built in 1890 as a coach house, barn and warehouse for a woolen mill owner in Byron.
On Wednesday, a building inspector attended the property, and in a statement, city hall’s heritage planner, Kyle Gonyou, said he is aware of the situation.
“As a heritage-listed property, the property owner is required to submit written notice of intention to demolish a building or structure on the property, which starts a 60-day review period."
During that review period the London Advisory Committee on Heritage is consulted, a public meeting is held and council decides if a building receives heritage designation or a demolition permit is issued.
The owner of 247 Halls Mill Rd declined to be interviewed Wednesday, but said the barn collapsed on its own. He also produced a document that he describes as a first step towards a demolition permit.
President of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario’s London Branch, Jennifer Grainger, says property owners should know the rules before work begins on a heritage-listed building.
“To demolish a building you do need to have a permit, and we need people to be more vigilant. Before you start tearing something down you need to find out if you can get permission to do that.”
But on Halls Mill Road - that advice is moot - according to Jones, “It looks quite irreparable to me. So it’s sad.”