Context 169 - September 2021

20 C O N T E X T 1 6 9 : S E P T E M B E R 2 0 2 1 MARCUS BINNEY Four decades of SAVE campaigns Since its launch in 1975, SAVE Britain’s Heritage has campaigned to rescue threatened buildings, small (Ringo Starr’s birthplace) and large, and on major policy issues. Despite the pandemic, SAVE has never been busier.The rush of urgent cases is fuelled partly by a spate of demolitions pushed forward under so-called permitted development rights (PDR). First came the delightful Elizabethan-style sta- tion at Brandon in Suffolk, dating from 1845 and built of the flint for which the town is famous. Here our lawyers Harrison and Grant and Richard Harwood QC challenged the use of PDR on the basis that the station was not operational. The council accepted the point and the approval was quashed in the high court. Now SAVE is working with the Suffolk Building Preservation Trust on a scheme of reuse. The next, still more outrageous, PDR case was the remarkable 1904 model home farm at Minley Manor in north Hampshire, callously neglected by its owners, the Ministry Defence no less, which announced that demolition would begin under PDR on 1 March. Hart District Council saw no way of resisting the plan until SAVE set out the arguments saying that plan- ning permission was needed. The council put an immediate halt to demolition. Despite the collapse of the roofs, this is an eminent case for rescue and reuse, and we are working with the architect John Burrell on proposals. Every other estate building is listed, partly for group value – and the Home Farm was designed to match the others. SAVE was launched in combat mode in 1975 with eight trustees: architectural writers and his- torians, architects and a planner. We were con- cerned that the official campaign for European Architectural Heritage Year was simply going to prove ‘yet another occasion – of which there are far too many – for Britain’s architects, town planners and local authorities to pat each other the back and give themselves awards.’ Our immediate target was to highlight the number of applications to demolish listed build- ings in this celebration year.They were coming at a rate of over one a day, boosted by British Rail’s application to demolish an entire railway village of 200 terrace houses. Our manifesto, strong on sustainability, resonates today. ‘In a period of economic stringency, the waste involved in town- centre demolitions, for example, is almost crimi- nal. Homes are lost, small businesses destroyed, areas blighted, resources squandered and the civilising influence of the past dissipated.’ It soon became obvious that the threats came not just from applications to demolish but from a large number of historic buildings being left to rot by their owners, and an even larger number of potentially listable properties which urgently needed listing. In 1976 we published Left to Rot and Churches at Risk to coincide with the V&A exhibition Change and Decay: the future of our churches , a call A watercolour by Graham Byfield of the 1845 station building at Brandon, Suffolk