Works to repair a grade I barn that has deteriorated over the last 20 years have not been scrutinised sufficiently, a local campaigner has claimed.

Robert O’Neill says the council and Historic England (HE) have failed to act in the best interests of conserving Chazey Farm Barn, Caversham’s only grade I listed site.

But Reading Borough Council (RBC) said: “We are confident the current plans are in the interests of the barn and represent a positive step forward”.

Work finally started to keep the building standing and watertight last month after the council issued an Urgent Works Notice in January, warning it would carry out repairs and charge the owner if no action was taken.

Grade I buildings are considered of exceptional interest, representing just 2.5 per cent of listed buildings in England.

READ MORE: Reading's six exceptional buildings listed grade I by Historic England

Mr O’Neill a committee member at the Warren and District Residents Association, called RBC and HE’s approach to conserving the historic barn “shocking”, asking if a works plan for the House of Parliament “would be written out in the same degree of casualness”.

He said: “This is a grade I building which normally requires thorough scrutiny.

“The impressive grade I rating puts it in the same category as the rarest of buildings in the country, such as the Houses of Parliament.

Reading Chronicle:

“Consider the months of review placed on the Abbey Ruins and tens of thousands of pounds spent on surveys and pre-plans before starting.

“It is both the responsibility of RBC and HE to have acted in the best interest of conservation of the grade I Barn. I challenge that this has not been done.”

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The council and Historic England met with sub-leaseholders InMind in February to discuss and agree a schedule of urgent works, after years of stalemate.

Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the repairs were delayed but initial works started on April 22.

Reading Chronicle:

The schedule of works were drawn up by RBC in consultation with HE but the council only has powers to require the minimum works necessary for the preservation of the building.

The council confirmed, however, that works currently underway to protect the barn “not only comply with but exceed” those set out in the urgent works notice.

Reading Chronicle:

According to the council, tenants InMind are considering appointing local certified surveyor Richard Oxley,  author of the highly respected conservation book Survey and Repair of Traditional Buildings: A Sustainable Approach.

A spokesman for RBC said: “All of this speaks positively to the developer’s desire to protect the barn at this stage.

“The council is pleased that the years of inactivity that have understandably frustrated those interested in the site have come to an end.

“As an important heritage site in Reading, the council will continue to monitor the progress closely to ensure this historic Grade I Listed building is respected and protected.

“While a permanent solution to the future of the barn within the plans still must be clarified, the essential work to halt the deterioration is being actively complied with.”

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A spokesman for Historic England said the urgent works are not the long-term solution the building needs but should prevent the condition of the building getting worse.

The heritage body said it will continue to work alongside RBC and the barn owners to ensure urgent works are carried out to the standard required for a grade one listed building.