IHBC’s ‘Heritage from the doorstep’: Plan to protect Plymouth’s post-war buildings from developers

websitePlymouth’s post-war architecture could be protected from developers under moves to create a new conservation area in the city centre, in plans covered by Plymouth News.

Plymouth Live writes:

Plymouth’s post-war architecture could be protected from developers under moves to create a new conservation area in the city centre. The council is considering the special designation, with Royal Parade and Civic Square at its heart of a new conservation area. It would take in New George Street to the north; Raleigh Street, Derry’s Cross, Athenaeum Lane to the west; Notte Street to the South; and Old Town Street, St Andrews Cross and abutting the western boundary of the Barbican Conservation Area…

Campaign groups have been calling for this prtection for years – before it is too late – and if the conservation area is agreed, as well as protecting the buildings, the new status would mean the area is eligible for funding from external organisations such as Historic England. Simon Hickman, principal inspector of historic buildings and areas for Historic England (South West), said the move would be good for giving ‘tired’ buildings a bit of TLC.

The area being considered forms an important part of Plymouth’s city centre, which was rebuilt, following its destruction during the Second World War, based on A Plan for Plymouth 1943 by Professor Patrick Abercrombie and James Paton Watson. The vision was for a radically different, modern city with boulevard-style central roads running east to west, linked by a striking north to south avenue, Armada Way, connecting North Road railway station and the Hoe. Many experts in the field believe it has led to Plymouth having one of the finest collections of 20th century architecture in the whole of England. Councillor Mark Coker, cabinet member for strategic planning said: ‘Quite simply there are very few places quite like it…’

Within the proposed conservation area are a number of Grade II listed buildings including Royal Bank of Scotland at St Andrew’s Cross, the Theatre Royal, Derry’s Clock Tower, the Bank Pub, the Council House and Civic Centre, Catharine Street Baptist Church, the former Barclay’s Bank and Unitarian Church. There are also buildings, which although not listed, are regarded as ‘local heritage interest which make a significant contribution to the overall character and appearance of the area’. This includes House of Fraser and buildings next to it, the group of buildings between the former Derry’s Department Store and Pearl Assurance Building and the former Reel Cinema.

It’s not just buildings being considered – outdoor spaces in this location are also helping to make the case, including the Grade II listed Civic Square and the tree-lined Royal Parade. Councillor Coker added: ‘We recognised the heritage significance of our city centre and want to ensure that changes we need to keep people flocking here happen, but in a way that preserves and enhances the character of our most significant heritage assets. We believe this designation will play an important part in helping us to achieve what we set out to achieve in the  Joint Local…’

Mr Hickman said: ‘Plymouth is a unique example of a British city centre that was completely replanned following the devastation of World War II. Other cities, like Coventry and Southampton, suffered high levels of destruction but were rebuilt on the same street pattern with fragments surviving. Plymouth was different: the vision for a new city saw the creation of these heroic wide boulevards flanked by striking – and often beautiful – modern buildings. Much of the original vision survives, but it is tired in places. The mid-century modernist look is now very fashionable and Conservation Area status could help reinvigorate the City Centre, by using its architecture as an asset.’

Major changes are already in the pipeline with planning applications submitted to refurbish Norwich Union House and public areas around Old Town Street and New George Street, as well as the refurbishment of the Civic Centre. People can comment on this proposal from Monday 17 to Sunday 30 June.

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