Context 154 - May 2018

40 C O N T E X T 1 5 4 : M A Y 2 0 1 8 1947–68, we know that a BPO was pressed for by campaigners, but none was made. In 1960, the British Transport Commission gave notice of its intention to knock down the listed EustonArch.The London County Council raised no objection (provided the Arch were re-erected elsewhere). Later an MP asked the minister in Parliament to make a BPO. In reply, the minister felt he was not justified in intervening.This story is related painstakingly, pain implied on every page, in The Euston Arch byAlison and Peter Smithson – modernist architects both, please note.The ‘greatest monument to the passing railway age’ (Pevsner, in his Foreword) was demolished in 1962; and it has not been re-erected, at least not yet. By 1964 344 BPOs covering 1,233 buildings had been made (with more protected by refusal of planning permission or by planning conditions).That is some 20 a year from 1947. Losses of buildings without a BPOwould have been in three figures, to go by later data (see below). In these and other cases, it was not just the cumber- some procedures that made this system weak. The compensation provisions put off many authorities.The onus rested on the authorities to act and make their case. If the local authority did nothing, silence was taken as acceptance. And the burden of proof by implication was on those who wished to protect, not those who wished to destroy. Lord Kennet, parliamentary secretary (junior minister) in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, 1966–70, deserves a place in preservation history for the listed building consent provisions enacted in 1968. He did not publish a diary of his time at MHLG but he did write a book, Preservation , shortly after.There he recounts first the difficulty of getting conservation areas through the ministry (see Context 148, March 2017, page 14–16). Winning through on Part V of the Town and Country Planning Act 1968 proved even harder. The fight lasted eight months, Kennet records. Civil servants, whose ‘solicitude for property interests’ sur- prised him, did not do things they had agreed to do, left out things in papers he had asked for, sent papers to the senior minister (then Anthony Greenwood) that he had vetoed, and even declined outright to put forward what he wanted.The officials calculated, one infers, that they could see off a mere junior minister by going to the top of the MHLG or to the Cabinet committee that had to approve the contents of the forthcoming bill.Yet Kennet won. He puts Yes, Minister in the shade. It is hard to prove the very idea of listed building consent was Kennet’s, as well as the Whitehall victory. It is interesting, however, that the redoubtable Jane Fawcett, thought by Pevsner to be too fierce, described her ‘despair over the system’ in a private letter to Kennet in 1966 (Box 119, Kennet papers, Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge). She writes: ‘the cases of buildings covered by BPOs that gradually deteriorate and finally are demolished are numerous’, but does not press the then new minister to do away with BPOs or to introduce something radically different. And Preservation shows Kennet’s grasp of the weaknesses of the 1947 system, and his study of protec- tion in France and Italy; and one may safely assume the idea did not come from officials. Kennet’s system, if one may put it like that, required application (not notice) to demolish (or alter or extend affecting its character) a listed building. Silence beto- kened refusal. The onus, at least by implication, was Lord Kennet,‘a politician of unusual calibre’ (Portrait byWalter Bird, Camera Press, London) The west side of High Street, including No 24, before and after redevelopment Photographs from Bath in Time