On Thursday the 16th September 1976, the Times Newspaper [well known for its credible reporting and much respected for its journalistic skills] printed an article which could have easily been missed, such was its small size. Very few lower deckers read the Times, then as now, and those who saw the snippet would have passed it by without too much feeling or care about the implication of the article, accepting that the money would be spent as reported.  Research made into other broadsheets reveals that the Times alone carried the story.  The archives of the tabloids are not as easy to research and so I didn't bother.

This is that article

My calculation to September 2009, a time span of 33 years, is that the amount is now £165000-00, and yet to my uncertain knowledge I am not aware that the DOE, or its successor Government departments which might also include English Heritage, have invested one penny into the upkeep of the now dilapidated mast.  Nor am I aware of any involvement by the Ganges Association or the Ganges Association Museum in this matter, and therefore assume that they are not aware of this promise from central Government. ADDED in November 2016 - However, in 2010 this story was on my web site which I know was well read [possibly by at least one ex Ganges boy/junior] and a few "in the know" in the Ganges Association of that time were warned off by me personally to this story. Nothing was done, said or commented upon, and the story went to ground.

Acting alone and NOT representing the Ganges Association or Museum, I am researching this matter with English Heritage from whom, under the Freedom of Information Act I have received full details of the Mast Listing.  When, and if I get to know the reason why the DOE [and its successor{s}] reneged on this promise, I will post the answer here.

However, before I am able to fulfill that promise [the bureaucratic wait time] I can fill you in on the CURRENT way of thinking adopted by English Heritage.  English Heritage list buildings and monuments [and ultimately own and control them] exercising that power through the local authority in whose patch that listed building is sited. Thus English Heritage has directed Babergh District Council [South Suffolk with offices in Ipswich] to order the owner of the listed building/monument to keep it {the Ganges Mast} in good order and relevant for the purpose of its listing. The owner,  Galliard Homes Limited an East London [E14] Company, AND Haylink Limited an Essex [IG10] Company who are the REGISTERED OWNERS,  have clearly failed to do that.  So what is the position now ?

The following article will answer many of the questions ordinary people might ask about a building or monument they have a particular interest in, with a sincere wish to see the 'icon' restored, and once restored thereafter maintained in good order.

Background

Nearly all the historic places in England earn their own keep

not just our stately homes, castles and cathedrals, but also our city quarters, parks, historic towns and village high streets that have more local significance. This is our first problem: as envisaged by Haylink Limited in their quest to build the Shotley Retirement Village, the mast could never earn its own keep.  However, from the sale of the units within the Retirement Village a generous maintenance fund could be established by Haylink Limited which would guarantee the upkeep of the Mast for posterity.

There are around half a million listed buildings in England;

the vast bulk of these are in some form of use which generates sufficient resources for their repair and maintenance without any support from public funds. The majority are in private hands and include private dwellings, railway stations, pubs, commercial premises, farm buildings, and many other uses, including public sector ones such as courts, town halls, and schools. Uses for standing ancient monuments tend to be more limited; but the majority of scheduled sites are below ground and have a range of economic activities, principally farming & tourism, taking place on and around them. Conservation areas vary in wealth, but even the poorest have many viable pockets within them. Registered parks and gardens also often accommodate revenue earning activities. Around these particularly significant buildings and sites is a wider landscape and townscape of historic character, which provides both a setting and contributes in its own right to tourism and other economic generators.

Why is funding sometimes necessary?

So it is the exception rather than the rule for English Heritage to interfere with what Babergh District Council is doing or to offer to subsidise the work necessary and needed.

 Why do these exceptions occur? The starting point is often failure by the owner. A building or site capable of economic use will fall into a state of neglect and disrepair because the owner fails to carry out repairs and maintenance in good time or at all. This may be for a number of reasons including lack of knowledge, reluctance to spend money, shortage of finance or, in a few cases, deliberate neglect to try and get rid of what is seen as a liability or to clear a site for development.

The answer in many cases is not public funding but a change of ownership. Where a building is capable of viable long-term use, it should be repaired and put into that use as quickly as possible. Local authorities should intervene early to keep costs low. Can another owner make a go of it without public subsidy? If so the aim must be to get a transfer of ownership, if necessary through enforcement action. A back-to-back agreement for disposal after acquisition by the local authority will mean that costs are limited to those relating to enforcement and often the mere threat of this is sufficient to persuade an owner to sell. The Babergh District Council has not yet taken this step despite the many statements it has issued on the subject and it has watched [apparently helpless] as the Mast almost drops to pieces, bit by bit, on a monthly basis. Why, one must ask, is the Council reluctant to use its powers for the good of the listed building/monument ? What is their motive?

Option Appraisal

The first thing to consider is the potential of the building or site itself to generate income or capital. Is any revenue-generating use possible through use or re-use, possibly after repair and alteration? Are there land or ancillary buildings which could be sold off or provide for enabling development without significantly damaging the historic significance of the building or site? Are there any legally enforceable obligations on the existing owner? Would the existing owner contribute some money to be rid of the responsibility of owning the building or site?

Funding

Once the income or capital generating potential and the cost of repairs and any necessary alterations or development is known, the size of the conservation deficit can be assessed and other sources of funding can be considered. The key here is to look as widely as possible at the range of outcomes that can be secured by the repair of the building or site, and to consider whether they can be matched with public sources of funding. The Architectural Heritage Fund’s website Funding for Historic Buildings; A Directory of Sources is an excellent starting point. Possibilities include European and other regeneration funding either direct or through regional development agencies or English Partnerships. Also available is agri-environment and other funding for the countryside through DEFRA schemes, Housing Corporation funding for social housing, and funding from Lottery distributors such as Sport England and the Arts Council. English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund are the two main sources of direct funding for the repair and conservation of historic buildings and sites. Compared with the HLF, funding from English Heritage is much more restricted in scale and is targeted primarily at the most important elements of the historic environment. There are other smaller but significant players such as the Architectural Heritage Fund. And some local authorities operate their own grant schemes.

Such funding is valuable in its own right to secure a sustainable future for a building or site. It may also attract match and partnership funding from other sources, as well as contributing to social and economic regeneration. You will also need to consider what management structure best suits the project you are proposing. Local authorities may choose to manage the project themselves, but it will usually be better to stand at arms length and to allow the project to be managed by another body. Where such a body is a charitable trust (for example a building preservation trust) there will be access to sources of funding not available to local authorities; for example charitable trusts and individual donations. By making use of volunteer workers of all kinds and sponsorship through the provision of materials or labour at cost, charities are very often capable of bringing down the overall cost of a project.

Sustainability

Finally, you will need to consider the long-term future of the building or site. Generally, where an appropriate use can be found for a building or site that will allow it to be self-supporting after repair and any necessary alteration, then this option should be adopted even if it means selling the building on. Where a use needing revenue support is proposed in these circumstances, the cost of providing that revenue support should not be seen or justified as part of the cost of conserving the building or site.

Some buildings or sites will always require public support. These will range from isolated non-economic structures such as market crosses, war memorials, statues or obelisks to major sites such as ruined castles or industrial works which can earn money as a visitor attraction, but not enough to cover the cost of operation or maintenance. The former can generally be managed with little in the way of cost implications; routine maintenance and quadrennial condition surveys are the main items and these will often be very small. When major repairs fall due, while there is no guarantee, the expectation must be that such structures will continue to be a priority for repair grant from EH.

The latter present the greatest challenge. There are few if any sources of long-term public or charitable funding for the revenue costs of such buildings and sites, although they may be a high priority for capital grants from EH and the HLF. This means that in practice they have to look to a charitably disposed private owner, or a public body such as the National Trust or a local authority for their future security.

Local authorities should adopt the same approach to historic buildings and sites in their own care. Regular maintenance will ensure that repair costs are kept low. Repairs should be tackled quickly rather than allowed to worsen. The operational use of buildings should be kept under review and those that are redundant should be disposed of into appropriate new uses quickly. Where buildings and sites are taken to secure their long-term future, proper consideration should be given to the scope for economic use and the need for continuing public support. This last paragraph sums up the whole sorry state of affairs.  We cannot just blame Haylink Limited for what has happened in the past [or indeed what continues to be happening] for clearly Babergh District Council has not done its job in ensuring that the Mast is repaired and maintained on a REGULAR BASIS.  There must be a reason why the Babergh District Council is reluctant to act but we are not made aware of that, at least until now [May 2010] - see below.

In addition to the searches at the National Archives three other Authorities had to be involved in my search for an answer to the Times article.

1.     I first wrote to ENGLISH HERITAGE and this was their answer:-

Freedom of Information Request - Mast of HMS Ganges, Shotley, Suffolk (ref: FOI 10/1108)‏

From:

TREVITT, Jessica (Jessica.Trevitt@english-heritage.org.uk)

Sent:

30 April 2010 13:16:17

To:

'godfreydykes@msn.com' (godfreydykes@msn.com)

Our Reference: FOI 10/1108 

Dear Mr Dykes,  

Re: Freedom of Information Request – Mast of HMS Ganges, Shotley, Suffolk. 

I have been passed your email to the East of England Team at English Heritage, dated 6th April 2010, for response. As Access to Information Manager for English Heritage I am responsible for responding to requests for information covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).

In your email you have requested to know why the £5000 which was reported, by The Times newspaper on 16th September 1976, to have been granted for the annual upkeep of the above mast has not spent by the Department of Environment (DoE) or English Heritage.  

After looking into this matter I concluded that, as far as we are aware, no such responsibility for upkeep has devolved to English Heritage. English Heritage has had no grant or other financial involvement in the mast (we were formed in 1984) and are not aware of DoE's past involvement. I am sorry that I am not able to provide you with more information.  You may, however, wish to contact Andrew Curphey at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport who should be able to advise you on where any DoE responsibilities for the mast were devolved.  Mr Curphey can be contacted at the following email address: Andrew.Curphey@culture.gsi.gov.uk  

I hope that the information that I have been able to provide is helpful to you.  If however, you are unhappy with the response that you have received you may ask for an internal review.  You should contact: Mr Mike Harlow, Legal Director, English Heritage, One Waterhouse Square, 138 – 142 Holborn, London, EC1N 2ST. 

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision.  The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, CHESHIRE, SK9 5AF.

2.     Next, a request was made of the Babergh District Council and their answer is shown below.

Under the FOIA 2000 I requested all correspondence between Babergh Council and Galliard Homes/Haylink on all matters concerning the Ganges Mast and that I have now received in full. Whilst I can publish the Babergh correspondence, I cannot publish Galliards/Haylink correspondence without their permission and I do not intend to go down that route. Therefore I will summarise what has been said. As far back as the 8th October 2007, Patrick Taylor, a Conservation Architect advising  the Babergh Council on matters of historic building/monuments, has been writing to Galliard/Haylink complaining about the state of the mast.  The text, now over two and half years old, is self evident and requires no further amplification.

 

Haylink answered by assuring the Council that it had always been their intention to repair the mast but at the same time as they were developing the old Ganges site into a retirement village. They point out that they were having great difficulty in getting approval to start the development and reiterate that once approved and work commences, then they will repair the mast. They didn't think that the damage to the mast was all that bad although for insurance purposes they had restricted access to the mast area.   On the 12th March 2008 Patrick Taylor again wrote to Haylink.

On the 19th March, Galliard sent a letter to Patrick Taylor in which they stressed that the company were not taking their responsibility for the mast lightly. They had consulted a surveyor who had recommended a chandler but chandlers were hard to get so there was a delay. They agreed with the Council that the mast was sound and not in need of urgent repair in the short to medium term. Mention was made that they were aware that the Council could exercise its powers to do urgent repairs and recover the costs from the owners. However, it stressed that a Local Authority could only compel an owner to undertake preservation works if it has evidence that the works are 'urgently necessary'. Galliard themselves [and the Council too according to Galliard] didn't think that the works were urgently necessary, but that repairs would be necessary in the medium term. Once again, they say that they are prepared to make the mast repair a pre-implementation requirement for the work to start when the development of the retirement village starts. If the Council were not happy with this or thought that the planning consent would not be in position, they would reconsider their approach to the requirement of the mast in the late summer [of 2008].

Other correspondence passed between the Council and Haylink but of a more general nature concerning the gates and perimeter fencing alongside Caledonia Road.

On the 24th October, seven months on, Patrick Taylor wrote again. Galliard wrote back saying that they knew the mast was in a state of disrepair.  They cite the problem as being the delay in getting professionals to assess  the mast [and other historic buildings]. A chandler is a must but there is a skills shortage and our surveyor cannot get hold of one. Galliard once again says that it is not their intention to duck their legal responsibilities but try as they might they are encountering "grave difficulties".

On the 27th October 2008, there was much industry within Galliards, and internal emails stated the problem in getting a chandler. A local chandler wanted the mast lowered to the ground before he could price the job. Estimates were being sought for a crane to lower the mast.  A big question being asked was, once lowered should the mast stay on the deck for safety reasons or should it be re-erected to await repair ? The crane hire estimates are expected soon and the local chandler is standing by. They also wanted to know whether the mast would remain a listed monument after repair and re-erection ?

Patrick Taylor wrote a email to some of his colleagues on the 27th October 2008 {below}.  

After a few weeks in which telephone calls were made and an email giving details of the progress being made by Galliard,  Patrick Taylor wrote to them on the 24th November 2008 {below}. 

 

Next comes correspondence of the 19th June 2009

2nd July 2009

10th July 2009

23rd July 2009

29th July 2009

Heavily disguised came these lame-duck responses:-

 

  We recognise our responsibility....waffle waffle waffle.

  It may seem as though there has been unacceptable delays....waffle, waffle, waffle.

  The mast must be lowered, and then taken off site {to Cornwall} to be fixed.

  We expect to have the proposal with the Council by September 2009

  and after approval [or earlier if the facility {?} is available] work will begin within

  three months. The expression "pigs might fly" comes to mind.

  Then, on the 29th July 2009 [and is this pusssy-footing ?]

 

Things are looking good and on the 15th September 2009 with a view to having it "all sewn up" before Christmas {as it were}, the Council writes to Galliard as follows.


 

 That, believe it or not, is the last constructive correspondence in the FOIA 2000 pack.

 Nothing, yet nothing has been done and it is already the 12th May 2010 as I write this story.

 Do you believe, trust and hold Galliard sincere ? They have been snubbed because their overall plan for the site {the retirement village} is flawed, and as such, they are playing their 'dog in manger' card. Before we leave this section, a couple of comments.  In the Council's email of the 2nd July 2009 you will note that in the first paragraph that the ships AGINCOURT and CORDELIA were mentioned.  This is erroneous and was issued in ignorance by the 'early birds' of the fledgling Ganges Association.

As a matter of interest, it was in 2004 [six long years ago] that the Shotley Community [Parochial Council] responded to the Babergh Council about Haylink's original and first revised plan for the old Ganges site. In short, it was an unequivocal NO.

Just a little reminder !
1.   Ganges closed in 1976.
2.   According to the Times Newspaper {16th September 1976} the DOE gave Listed Grade II status to the Mast on closure.
3.   Ganges Association was formed in July 1982. The first Committee meeting took place on the 3rd to sort out the basics of the organisation.  The Chairman was Captain Murray Dunlop RN Retired;
      the Secretary Commander W. Fitzherbert RN Retired; the Treasurer J.C. Day; the Vice Chairman P. Taylor; the Assistant Secretary Mac Brodie; the Committee Members were F.V. Powell, D.Bessey,
      G. Humphrey and the Hon Vice Presidents were Mr Fisk and Robbie Robson.
4.   English Heritage was formed in 1984.
5.   According to English Heritage and the Babergh Council, the Mast listing was given 1989 not in 1976.
6.   During the 80's and 90's the Ganges site was used as a Euro Sports Centre and a Police Training College.

3.     Finally, I approached the Government Department of Culture, Media and Sport [DCMS]. This is their answer:-

FoI request - 141046‏
From:  MORRIS, Charlotte (Charlotte.Morris@Culture.gsi.gov.uk)
Sent: 18 May 2010 14:20:33
To: godfreydykes@msn.com (godfreydykes@msn.com)
FoI ref: 141046
 
Dear Mr Dykes,
 
Thank you for your Freedom of Information request of 6th May 2010 for the following information:
 
‘Upkeep of mast - Under the FOI Act, I asked English Heritage why, as reported in the Times Newspaper on the 16th September 1976, the £5000 p.a., set aside for the upkeep of the Mast at HMS Ganges, Shotley Gate, Suffolk by the DOE had not been spent either by the DOE or its appointed successors since its demise. I have included a copy of the Times story as an attachment to this email.’
 
Your request has been dealt with under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.
 
Following a search of our paper and electronic records I can confirm that the Department does not hold any information relevant to your request.
 
The report in the Times is dated 1976 and we do not hold any papers from this time to determine where they would have obtained this information.
 
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport do not hold any responsibility to fund listed monuments or buildings. English Heritage advise that as the mast is Grade 2 listed and not in a conservation area that they also do not hold any responsibility for the upkeep of the mast. We therefore recommend that you contact the owners of the land in which the HMS Ganges mast lies as they hold a duty to fulfil the obligations imposed by listed building legislation. For further details on the rules imposed by owning a listed building or monument please follow the below link:
 
 
I apologise that we are unable to provide any further assistance.
 
Yours sincerely,
 
 
Charlotte Morris
Freedom of Information Officer

After an extensive search of four major sources I can only assume the following.

First off I would sooner trust a creditable newspaper journalist than a politician, and I cannot accept that the Times would print a story that was not true - it is not a tabloid.  The Times is widely read by such people as Ministers of the Crown who would have seen the article, and refuted the story were it not true.  Moreover, accredited journalist's are trusted by Parliament and untrue trivia is not necessary in a broadsheet with precious little room for the facts.  The records of that period thirty four years ago are recorded for posterity and the detail should have been easy to find were it not that the records are incomplete at the National Archives.  It is inconceivable that Government records should be 'tampered with' but that is what appears to have happened. The DOE records would have been kept in the Government Department and not transferred to the National Archive until much later. The Government fell as a result of the 'Winter of Discontent', and in 1979, Mrs Thatcher's Tory Government took over an extremely weak and cash-strapped economy, and I can remember paying 21.62% for my mortgage during this period, such was the financial gloom at that time.  I believe that the Labour Government, knowing that even a promise of a humble £5000 per year for a naval icon made in good faith was too much, withdrew the money almost as soon as it had been made, altering their records to conceal the dastardly deal.