The new Historic England debate explores the potential for using interim protection measures to prevent harm to important historic buildings before they can be listed, with posts including the IHBC’s President’s ‘Confessions of a Conservation Officer’.
image: David McDonald
This edition of Heritage Online Debate will explore whether we are doing enough to keep valuable, historic buildings safe from being demolished or significantly altered before they can be protected by listing. We have all been aware that buildings of special architectural or historic interest are sometimes lost prior to, or during assessment for listing. Fortunately the numbers of buildings that suffer from pre-emptive damage are small, especially compared to the numbers of buildings we look at each year, but they are often cases that hit the headlines. We are therefore keen to explore what more can be done, both within current legislation and in the longer term.
In England, the service of a Building Preservation Notice (BPN) is the main means of interim protection, but they are underused. Only an average of between five and six BPNs are served by local planning authorities each year. Recent investigations have shown a few reasons for this, with compensation seemingly the main barrier. In order to address this, we recently published an updated advice note on BPNs and announced a two-year pilot scheme to explore the benefits of indemnification by Historic England against the risk of compensation claims.
To start this debate we have invited a few external contributors to examine the issue from their viewpoints.…
David McDonald writes:
Of course, the threat of compensation will always be a disincentive for local planning authorities to serve Building Preservation Notices. Indemnity against a claim of compensation can only help to rectify this, but finance is not always at the heart of the matter as the following two examples will illustrate.
Example number one may be familiar to others. In the late 1980s British Telecom (BT) decided that their 1930s telephone kiosks were rather old-fashioned and did not meet the needs of their customers. BT then embarked on a rapid programme of replacement. No permission was required from the local planning authority and BT was in no mood to negotiate.
At that time I led the Conservation and Design Team at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Having been alerted to the imminent removal of these classic Giles Gilbert Scott kiosks, and with the agreement of the Director of Planning, I set about preparing a number of Building Preservation Notices (BPN). Thanks to a supportive Chairman of the Planning Committee and fast work by the Borough Solicitor, I had the opportunity, in the language of local newspapers, to ‘slap a preservation notice’ on the identified kiosks.
To my relief, all the kiosks which had been subject to the BPN were added to the statutory list. I must admit that today, it still gives me a warm feeling to see the pair of BPN’d K6 kiosks in Sloane Square. They are such an iconic part of London’s townscape. There may have been a compensation issue here, but the view was taken that it was necessary to save these structures which had clear architectural quality and were intrinsic to the character of the Royal Borough….