Extensive Works Planned To Save Houghton's Red House

It's long been the aspiration of Central Bedfordshire's Housing department to include the Red House in its plans for their new flagship housing and retail development in the centre of Houghton Regis. And now, two years after planning consent to turn the Red House into an activity building for visitors, the Council are applying for permission to carry out extensive remedial works on the Red House.

The Red House features as a Phase 1A task in the overall phasing scheme to build the Extra Care Housing and Retail complex for the town centre of Houghton Regis.
Scaffolding was erected around the building from 10th August 2017. Since then further reports on the building and the potential works required just to make the building safe have been obtained by the Council.

Structural engineers have written that the task will be, 
"a challenging and extensive repair and restoration process".

Extensive works are required to the building including works to the timber-framed structure and roof of the main building and outbuilding, works to the chimney structure, works to the staircases, works to windows and external doors, and damp proofing works. Proposed works also include demolishing an existing rear porch, removal of some internal walls, installation of new toilet facilities, as well as repair work to ceilings, doorframes, and timbers. The list of works continues with insulation works, chimney repairs, joinery, glazing and electrical works.

As it is a Grade II historic building, the Council as owner has a responsibility to see that restoration work is done correctly. Even though elements of this historic structure have deteriorated and even failed they cannot simply be demolished and replaced with new. For example, the roof structure cannot be demolished and replaced with new. Any original damaged and deformed brickwork cannot be demolished and re-built. Also, it is not an option to remove old floor timbers and replace with new to suit a proposed future use.

An Electrical Installation Condition Report says that "urgent remedial action is required to remove potential danger". (see↪)

How the building looked before the scaffolding and tarpaulins were put on

This is a 17th Century Grade II listed detached property in the Houghton Regis Conservation Area. The property has a pitched and tiled roof and central chimney stack. The property is of timber frame construction with two floors and an attic space. No internal fittings such as doors or panelling survive from the 17th century. In the 18th century, the house was re-fronted in red brick. The dormer windows in the front of the attic rooms could date from the 19th century. In the mid-20th century, a first floor was added to the extension at the rear containing stairs to the first floor and a bathroom. A porch was added at front of the building and many of the windows and various works were carried out in the 20th century to convert the building into two residential properties. (HISTORIC BUILDING ASSESSMENT )

Listed building consent for works to the building was given in November 2016 when the Council aspired for the Red House to be incorporated sympathetically into a new town centre housing scheme. That permission was subject to conditions showing how the work would be done. (CB/16/03379/LB)

These images, drawn from the latest reports show the state of the building under the tarpaulins.

Timber and Damp Report (see↪)

Glasspool and Thaiss conducted a survey in December 2016 and a second structural survey in November 2017 after scaffolding and tarpaulins had been put over the building.

In their latest report they wrote, "the current condition of the Red House represents the prospect of a challenging and extensive repair and restoration process."

A whole series of measures to save the building is proposed including new trussed rafters, timber beams to support the truss rafters, bracing, plywood sheets to brace the underside of sloping portions of rafters, wall plates, stainless steel strapping, removing existing render to confirm the condition of existing lintels, steel frame supports,

The roof.
Worryingly for anyone underneath, the Glasspool and Thaiss report says, "The corbel bricks are only contained by the guttering and could have easily fallen off otherwise."
"the original roof plate still exists and appears to be in relatively good condition".
 "the ends of the timbers visible in [Room F1] are in poor condition and the ceiling shows outward movement of the wall."
 Newly attached sprockets are criticised for not being well fixed, and any movement in them will have contributed to damage to the brick corbel.

Of further concern, the Glasspool and Thaiss report notes:
"principle rafters immediately adjacent the gable walls are suffering from rot".
"there is evidence of some rot at the rafter feet."
"the rear elevation of the dormer appears to lean inwards."
"The rafters of the later lean-to roof with a parapet wall to the rear have largely rotted where they meet the parapet."
"the south-east elevation of the main property has a crack in the render" and " the window frame is rotten".

Front elevation,
"vertical crack at the right-hand end of the brick arch over the lower right-hand window"
"erosion of individual bricks"
" lateral displacement of the header bricks above the lower left-hand window"

north-west elevation
"some deterioration of the plinth brickwork and the vertical cracking between the right-hand end of the ground and first-floor windows"

main rear elevation and parapet wall
" cracking of the render"

Room A2
"has been stripped of some finishes, revealing that the gable wall has had timber framing removed and infilled with brick segments."

ground floor
"Removal of the low-level panelling on the ground floor reveals the original brickwork coated with some sort of bitumen-based paint and we remain of the opinion that the panelling was installed to help hide the dampness in the wall. There is a vertical split in the wall in the front corner of Room G1 and this ties up with similar evidence externally, adjacent the ‘render column’."

other comments
"There are already issues within the building with mould growth"
"our prime structural concerns with the property would be addressing the lack of lateral restraint to the walls, the spread and serviceability of the roof structures, the repair of damaged walls and the repair/assistance/treatment of historic timbers."

This artist impression shows how the overall scheme might look once completed.

Planning Application No: CB/18/03479/LB

Location: 1 The Red House, The Green, Houghton Regis, Dunstable, LU5 5DY
Proposal: Listed Building Consent:
1. Works to the timber-framed structure to the main building and attached single storey outbuilding to be retained (including roof works).
2. Works to chimney structure to be retained.
3. Works to staircases to be retained.
4. Works to windows and external doors to be retained (including joinery structure and glazing repairs).
5. Damp proofing works.

Please provide any comments to CBC no later than 23 October 2018. planning@centralbedfordshire.gov.uk

Red House - A Cause for Concern - HRND August 2017