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Page last updated at 05:02 GMT, Tuesday, 8 June 2010 06:02 UK
Marconi family angered by neglect of Chelmsford factory
By Oliver Rogers
BBC Essex

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Pioneering broadcast centre left in disrepair

The daughter of radio pioneer, Guglielmo Marconi, said she was "shocked" by the current state of her father's former factory in Chelmsford.

The part-listed historic building is now in a state of disrepair and decay.

A BBC investigation has revealed evidence of squatting, vandalism and drug taking in the New Street factory.

Princess Elettra Marconi-Giovanelli told BBC Essex: "I'm really shocked, I wish the people who have the responsibility would appreciate it."

New Street factory
Opened in June 1912, Marconi's New Street factory is now derelict

Ninety-years-ago this month, Dame Nellie Melba sang the first entertainment radio broadcast from Marconi's factory in New Street.

The demise of the Ashwell property group in December 2009 ended an attempt to develop the New Street site, the area is now in the hands of receivers, Zolfo Cooper.

The former factory has been empty since the last company to use the site, Selex Communications, sold the property in 2008.

BAE Systems bought the defence contractor side of GEC Marconi in 1999 and still uses Eastwood House at the back of the site.

The other major part of GEC Marconi formed the Marconi Corporation PLC in 2000 and is now incorporated into Ericsson and Telent Communications LTD.

A statement from Zolfo Cooper said: "The vandalism of public and private properties is a widespread and upsetting issue for many of Britain's communities.

"Consequently, we take the security of all of our sites extremely seriously."

In recent weeks the receivers have launched a review of security at the New Street site.

"As a result of this review, started before the BBC's filming, security arrangements have been tightened further, including the repair of perimeter fencing and gates which were damaged by trespassers intent on gaining access to the site.

"In addition, we have also introduced a motion detection system which provides comprehensive, round the clock supervision of the whole site. Again, this was implemented before we were alerted to the BBC's filming."

The full statement from Zolfo Cooper is at the bottom of this article.

Historically important

Princess Elettra, 80, was shown pictures of the current condition of the New Street factory by BBC Essex when they met her in Rome.

"The building has to be restored as it is very important for the history of England and my father loved Chelmsford," she said.

New Street factory inside
Inside the New Street factory there is evidence of metal theft

Dame Nellie Melba was paid by the Daily Mail newspaper to sing on the radio broadcast from Marconi's factory in June 1920.

The opera soprano was driven around Chelmsford before the broadcast and crowds turned out to watch her.

"I grew up with the story about the first voice, that was the best singer in the world, a beautiful voice - Australian, Dame Nellie Melba," she said.

The Marconi Veterans Association represents many former and current employees of the group Marconi companies.

Chairman, Peter Turrell MBE, told BBC Essex: "I am disgusted, and I'm sure a lot of people don't realise what has been going on [with the buildings]."

Simon Burns, Chelmsford's Conservative MP, told BBC Essex: "In this specific instance, the owners have to got to be responsible for protecting the site.

"And if other authorities have got to bring pressure to bear on them, to up hold their responsibilities, then that should happen.

Princess Elettra Marconi-Giovanelli
Princess Elettra is the daughter of the pioneer of wireless communication

"But now that BBC Essex are highlighting this problem, you can draw it to the attention of the relevant authorities," he said.

The question of the condition of the New Street complex was raised at Chelmsford Borough Council's Cabinet question time in April 2010.

Councillor Christopher Kingsley, Cabinet Member for Parks and Heritage replied: "The site has been subject to vandalism, and has not been maintained and is outwardly in a poor condition.

"Council officers have been in discussions with the receivers to agree a schedule," Cllr Kingsley said.

"Temporary uses are being considered for the site, including police training, to deter theft and vandalism," he added.

Additional reporting by Alison Hodgkins-Brown, Richard Martin and Julian Sturdy.


Full statement from Zolfo Cooper:

"The vandalism of public and private properties is a widespread and upsetting issue for many of Britain's communities.

"Consequently, we take the security of all of our sites extremely seriously.

"Prior to our appointment as LPA Receivers of the former Marconi site in November 2009 a substantial amount of vandalism and theft had occurred on the site, resulting in it becoming unfit for tenant occupation and making it more difficult to secure for an extended period of time.

"We have continued to operate regular security patrols on a daily basis, in line with the arrangements made prior to our appointment, whilst we have considered the options available for the vacant site.

"We recognise that the Marconi building in Chelmsford has continued to be the target of trespassers and as a consequence we have instigated a thorough independent security review in recent weeks.

"As a result of this review, started before the BBC's filming, security arrangements have been tightened further, including the repair of perimeter fencing and gates which were damaged by trespassers intent on gaining access to the site.

"In addition, we have also introduced a motion detection system which provides comprehensive, round the clock supervision of the whole site. Again, this was implemented before we were alerted to the BBC's filming.

"We consider these actions provide an indication of how seriously we take the issue of security on a site that is of great significance to the people of Chelmsford."




SEE ALSO
In pictures: Former Marconi site
08 Jun 10 |  History
Marconi hut lessons teach pupils
31 Mar 10 |  History
Marconi: work of a radio pioneer
23 Jan 09 |  History
In pictures: Inside Severalls
21 Oct 09 |  History
In pictures: Severalls Hospital
21 Oct 09 |  History
Severalls: 'Scene of desolation'
21 Oct 09 |  People & Places
The men who broke Marconi
09 Jun 04 |  Business
Profile: Marconi, the wireless pioneer
11 Dec 01 |  Sci/Tech


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