Context 154 - May 2018

C O N T E X T 1 5 4 : M A Y 2 0 1 8 41 on the applicant to say why demolition was thought necessary.The local authority had to have regard to the desirability of preservation (another 1968 clause) and the ensuing circular was firm on this (passages show every sign of Kennet’s pen, and the National Planning Policy Framework passage is anodyne in comparison). The term listed building was defined for the first time and for the first time really meant something. Local authorities were required to consult the national heritage societies about listed building consent applications involving demolition, a rare statutory obligation in favour of voluntary bodies.There were many related provisions too, especially strengthening measures on compensation and penalties. The measures are still in force half a century later.They have not been significantly altered; nor has there been significant pressure to weaken, or strengthen, them.This is despite their radical nature and the marked shift they entail from individual property rights to state control. This last point arose when the bill was before the House of Commons. Sir Derek Walker-Smith MP described the new powers as ‘probably wrong and inequitable… [giving] no appeal or right of representation to an owner whose property is listed…perpetrating an inequity upon those who own them’. Graham Page MP questioned the automatic preservation that was to become inherent in listing: ‘the automatic preservation order will have unfortunate effects’.Yet the bill passed. Michael Ross sums it up in his Planning and the Heritage: policies and procedures : ‘The English person’s tendency to cherish their property rights… listed building control can be seen as the heavy hand of the state descending on and restricting those rights in an arbitrary and unfair way. Remarkably few owners have seen it that way. Rather, there has been a pride in ownership.’ The MHLG told Kennet (after initially saying they had no figure) that 400 listed buildings were lost in 1966.The number fell to 266 in 1969, the first full year of the operation of PartV. By 1982 it was 161 and almost 100,000 buildings had been added to the lists in the previous 10 years. This reduction, absolutely and as a proportion of the listed building stock, would not have occurred without the 1968 act, but it was the pressure of public opinion and the work of heritage bodies that brought it about. We have had a conservation revolution, and it was a politician of unusual calibre, not a heritage campaigner, who was instrumental. Demolitions are now exceptional. Applications to demolish have fallen below 50 a year and most are refused. Most of the recent campaigns of, for example, SAVE Britain’s Heritage (152-158 Strand; Royal Mail sorting office, Paddington; 66-68 Bell Lane, Spitalfields – all London; and 26 Market Place, March; Hexham Union Workhouse; Wilton Terrace, Cambridge) have concerned unlisted buildings. Notably, nature conservation has not enjoyed anything as radical. Local planning authorities are expected to have policies to protect Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). Owners and occupiers of SSSIs are required to obtain consent to carry out certain activities like grazing or fishing. But there is no SSSI consent. If a road or housing scheme, say, is proposed, the law demands only that the appropriate conservation body is consulted. The heritage world, for all its travails, has much to be grateful for. Timothy Cantell is a planner and writer who worked at the Civic Trust and the RSA, and was a co-founder of SAVE. Reference Kennet,Wayland (1972) Preservation ,Temple Smith, London