14th December 2015
Shaw Sheet Magazine
Listed Buildings: Time To Revisit The List?
Lynda Goetz’s fascinating article on listed buildings points out the very bizarre principles of current historic and architectural buildings conservation ideology, where ugly or second-rate alterations that Historic England would never for a moment countenance if submitted to them in 2015, are fiercely protected by virtue of being carried out in earlier, but often recent times, before the building was statutorily listed.
My own particular mid adjusting experience was being an observer – as trustee of a charity that was going to pick up all of the eventual bill – of a fierce and protracted row between English Heritage – as it then was –and the local authority in whose curtilage our building stood. The local authority officers wanted a ramp built up the front of the Grade 1 listed building to allow disabled access. English Heritage were absolutely not prepared to permit any such thing. The drama ran and ran, and ran. Eventually we were told to create a new baroque Georgian door at the back for level access. The cost of all this set back our efforts to repair the deteriorating interior by several years.
But I am not sure that what we need is a major delisting of lesser buildings. Our architectural history and the comfortable fabric of the builtscapes around us need all the protection we can grant them in an age of rampant redevelopment, limited life buildings of dubious construction quality, and ponderable future use statistics, to justify bulldozers almost anywhere. What we do need is a stiff dose of reality injected into the various statutory bodies so that they enable sympathetic alterations and repairs to buildings which maintain the feel and spirit of place but enable modern uses and lives in old fabric.
Which is the same ethos that should drive modern Conservatism also, Mr Cameron might conclude, from his central London Georgian terrace.
Peter Bradshaw Wilson