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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 March 2008, 15:23 GMT
Minister meets pigeon protestors
Listed pigeon loft

A government minister has refused to intervene in a row over the future of a Grade II-listed pigeon loft, which faces being flattened by developers.

The loft - known locally as a cree - is on an allotment in the village of Ryhope, near Sunderland.

It is thought to be the world's only listed cree, but may be demolished after a 10-year lease expired.

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham visited the cree on Thursday, but said it was not for him to intervene in the case.

A group of pigeon fanciers, some in their 70s, have staged protests about the likely demise of the structure.

'Big difference'

Mr Burnham, who was taken to the site by local MP Fraser Kemp, admitted the cree was "a unique piece of culture", but added: "I know there is a decision ongoing and it is not for me to intervene in that."

The cree's owner, Maurice Surtees, 75, and 21 other allotment holders, have vowed to save the building and land and have garnered support from local campaign groups and MPs.

The wooden cree was built in 1955 by Mr Surtees and his late brother, William.

English Heritage granted it listed status in 1998, but the land's owners, Newcastle-based Worktalent Ltd, want to redevelop the allotments.

The allotment holders were offered a 250,000 compensation package to move out, but they all turned it down.

Mr Surtees said: "We have got local people behind us and I think Mr Burnham's visit will make a big difference."

Despite failing health, the campaigners have said they will not give up.

No-one from Worktalent was available for comment.

Pigeon pensioners in a flap
15 Jan 98 |  UK News

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